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Chapel Down unveils £4.35m expansion plan

English winery Chapel Down is to invest more than £4m in a 'significant' vine planting programme and to expand the company's fast-growing beer business.

Chief executive Frazer Thompson said the £4.35m raised by the Kent-based company marked a ‘step change’ for the business, allowing it to invest in further vineyard acreage and to scale up its beer production by building its own brewery.

But he admitted that last year’s poor harvest would have an impact on performance in 2013, although this would be offset by growth from its Curious Beer brand.

‘We had to take our foot off the accelerator last year when we discovered there was going to be a low harvest,’ Thompson said.

Chapel Down, winner of three gold medals in this year’s Decanter World Wine Awards, said expanding its grape sourcing across Kent, Sussex and Essex would help to satisfy growing demand for its wines, as well as spreading the risk in the event of another difficult harvest.

About £2.4m of the £4.35m investment funding raised by the ICAP-listed group comes from Hothouse Club, an investment club founded by ex-Scottish & Newcastle and C&C Magners chief executive John Dunsmore, who joins the Chapel Down board as chairman-designate.

Part of the money will also be used to buy the 30% of Curious Drinks Ltd that Chapel Down does not currently own, the company added.

Chapel Down posted a profit of £413,000, up 90% on the year before, with turnover close to £5m.

Written by Richard Woodard

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