Review of Ark Wines, Suffolk - Tastings & Wines

On a beautiful spring day in Suffolk, I found myself meeting two of the most innovative winemakers I have met in England to date. Father and daughter team Hans and Amanda, creators of Ark Wines.

Their passion for wine, their ethos, and their sense of adventure in creating something truly new and yet rooted in its locality was inspiring. Oh, and their wines were great too!

Review of Ark Wines - index:

>> Contact details

A family affair with innovation at its heart
>> Innovation In the Winery
>> Innovation In the Vineyard

Their latest adventure

 >> Rabbits at The Bush - Shimpling

Ark Wines - a great wine range
>> Tasting Notes
>> Where to Taste & Buy

>> Useful Links


Contact details

Ark Wines @ Mount Farm Vineyards

Facebook & Instagram: @arkwines 

Rabbits at The Bush - Shimpling

Facebook: @ Rabbits at The Bush - Shimpling

A family affair with innovation at its heart

Ark Wines is very much a family affair. It started when Hans and Kristin Engstrom, who settled in the UK from Sweden over 20 years ago, found a barn to convert at Mount Farm in the heart of the Stour Valley in Suffolk in 2018. The barn was ideal to convert into their forever home but crucially for Hans, it also had the potential for a vineyard.

Fortunately, their daughter Amanda shared his enthusiasm, she enrolled at Plumpton College to gain the viticulture and wine making skills they would need in their new adventure.

Hans and Amanda are real innovators, in the winery and in the vineyard.

However, they also have an eye to history and learning from others. Whether it is historic wine techniques or approaches to wine tourism, they have an openness and enthusiasm for embracing ideas wherever they find them.

Innovation In the Winery


Historic Passito Method

Ark’s Ripasso Noir brings the historic Italian Passito method to England. A method most famous in Italy’s Veneto region where it is used to make the world renowned Amaroni wines.

Using this traditional method, Ark air dried the grapes on straw for 90 days before making the wine as normal, producing a truly innovative English red wine.

Creating this wine involved testing different grape varieties to see which ones would dry successfully. Through this experimentation they discovered Acolon, a grape variety created in Germany in the 1970’s by crossing Dornfelder and Lemberger.

The drying process concentrates the sugars and flavours of the grapes, increasing potential alcohol, body, and flavour intensity in the final wine. Ark blended this concentrated wine with their lighter Pinot Noir, creating a distinctive, intensely fruity red wine.

The downside of being a small boutique wine that is always innovating is that they make small batches, and the wines run out. As has happened with their Ripasso Noir. Can’t wait until they make more.  

Happy accident. Oops! is that where the Bacchus went

Some innovation happens by accident. They discovered they had left Bacchus in barrel for a year when they went to use the barrel and discovered it was full of wine. They had forgotten it was there.

They tasted it, discovered it was rather good, so bottled it.

Bacchus is usually made to retain its aromatic character and vibrant flavours, without barrel ageing. What is the impact of barrel ageing? Check out the tasting notes later in this post.

Innovation - in the vineyard

Starting a vineyard from scratch is not an easy task. But it gave Hans and Amanda the chance to start with the innovative and adventurous spirit that characterises this winery.

Although they planted Pinot Noir and Chardonnay grape varieties, now almost standard for new vineyards in the UK, they didn’t do that to make sparkling wines. Their aim was to make still wines.

With East Anglia gaining a reputation for being the future for still wines in England, this is a shrewd move by Ark.

Their innovation didn’t stop there. They also wanted to experiment with more unusual grape varieties. But how to decide which varieties to grow?

They each picked a grape variety they liked. Amanda’s choice was aromatic Riesling, Hans went for Gamay. They knew they weren’t usually grown in the UK, but they liked them, and, in theory, they should both grow in a cooler climate like England.  


 Riesling grapes in England


Unfortunately, the Gamay hasn’t taken as well as the Riesling. As Amanda explained to me, “it was a bit of a wildcard”. However, they are not planning to give up on it just yet.

When we met in early July Amanda said growth seemed “a lot better this year” (2023), but we will have to see how the rest of the season shapes up.

Gamay is a very interesting choice. Most famous for making Beaujolais, with its high acidity, low tannins, and aromatic fruitiness, it has been growing in popularity in other cool-climate regions like Oregon, Canada, and Switzerland.

Ark plan to make a wine similar to Beaujolais, once they get enough Gamay grapes. With the small amount of Gamay they have produced so far, they have been experimenting with carbonic maceration, the method used to produce the lightly coloured, low tannin and distinctive soft, fruity character of Beaujolais.


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Their latest adventure

Innovation in the vineyard and winery, and making create wines, doesn’t tell the whole story. Hans and Amanda’s impact on this beautiful corner of England goes far beyond that.

From doing their small part to help save England’s village pub tradition, to spearheading new traditions in English food & wine pairing and developing wine tourism, this Swedish family’s adventures continue. 

Rabbits at The Bush - Shimpling

 Instead of meeting Hans and Amanda at their winery, I discovered them at their latest adventure, the village pub, Rabbits at The Bush at Shimpling

For centuries the pub has been the lifeblood of village life in England. However, pubs have been in rapid decline over the past decades. This was to be the fate of The Bush at Shimpling, were it not for Hans. The villagers wanted a local hub and asked if Hans would take it over.

Ark Wines at The Bush Shimpling
This has allowed Hans to pursue his passions for high quality local foods and pairing local foods with local wines.

It is also a great venue to taste Ark’s wines by the glass, along with wines from several other local Stour Valley vineyards. As well as buy bottles of Ark’s wines.

Contact them in advance if you would like to enjoy a relaxed guided tasting with Amanda. 

Ark Wines - a great wine range

Given all I have written about their innovative approach, it will probably come as no surprise that they do a great range of wines. Winning wine awards on the way.

Two whites - 100% Bacchus and a Chardonnay & Bacchus blend.
A Pinot Gris rosé.

Two reds - 100% Pinot Noir and the sold out Ripasso Noir. 

Ark Wines - Tasting Notes

Explore Ark Wines range of wines in our blog post Ark Wines -Tasting Notes.

Ark Wines - where to taste & buy

Ark’s wines are available on their website  

If you get the chance, it is well worth popping into the Rabbits at The Bush at Shimpling to sample their wines and buy directly. 

Useful links

Ark Wines

Browse Ark’s website for more detailed information on visiting, booking tours and buying wines.
Facebook & Instagram: @arkwines 

Rabbits at The Bush - Shimpling

Taste Ark’s wines by the glass (and buy a bottle), along with wines from several other local Stour Valley vineyards at Hans and Amanda’s latest adventure, village pub The Bush at Shimpling. Contact them in advance if you would like to enjoy a relaxed guided tasting with Amanda.

Facebook: @ Rabbits at The Bush - Shimpling


WineGB is the association representing over 80% of the vineyards in England and Wales. WineGB East represents the vineyards in Norfolk, Suffolk, Essex, Hertfordshire, Bedfordshire, and Cambridgeshire.

Check out Ark Wines @ Mount Farm Vineyards and browse other members in East Anglia.

English Wine Tourism - Don’t Miss Out!

Wine tourism in England is at a fascinating stage of development, it is only going to get better. Don’t miss out, read our article to discover more.








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