A HAMPSHIRE winery is set to reap the fruits of its investment in a hi-tech pressing plant.

The county’s newest commercial vineyard is harvesting its first major crop and the resulting wine will be available to buy in 2014.

Grapes from the Hattingley Valley vineyard at Medstead, near Alresford, are being ferried to the winery at nearby Wield and pressed before bottling.

Hattingley Valley planted 18 acres in 2008 and another ten in 2011. It expects to get 25,000 bottles of high-class sparkling wine from the harvest last year, available to drink in 2013. This year’s harvest was disappointing because poor weather in June hit the fruit. But it should be enough for Hattingley to produce 50,000 bottles for 2014.

Estate manager Simon Checketts said: “This is our first real commercial crop. We had a very small crop in 2010. It is a very exciting time. This is a great adventure.”

Hattingley is an example of the growing importance of local wine-making.

Through the 1970s and 80s many vineyards were essentially hobbies but now the farming world is looking seriously at converting land.

The Baring estate at Itchen Abbas, near Winchester, had planted 53,000 vines and the Grange Farm Partnership this summer planted two small fields near Cheriton.

Simon Robinson is the owner of Kings Farm who has invested a seven-figure sum in developing the Hattingley vineyard and the winery, opened last year on the site of redundant chicken sheds.

The initial winery plan was for it to only deal with Hattingley grapes but now there is interest from other vineyards in contract wine-making.

Mr Robinson said: “We are diversifying the farm and looking for interesting opportunities and I have a longstanding interest in the wine industry. But this is a hard-headed business idea.

“There is significant demand for quality wine-making capacity. We would be foolish not to take it up.”

Mr Robinson believes the winery could act as a catalyst for other farmers to open their own vineyard on a spare 35-40 acres knowing they do not need to invest in the pressing machinery.

“The demand for English sparkling wine is exploding at the moment. It is cheaper than champagne and is as good.

“In Hampshire we have the soil and the climate that is perfectly adapted for traditional methods of making sparkling wine.”