A WINE enthusiast who left his job to run his own vineyard in Henley is celebrating his first harvest.
Jan Mirkowski bought Fair Mile Vineyard in 2012 and planted 12,000 vines the following year.
Last month, a team of pickers spent two days harvesting more than eight tonnes of grapes. These have been sent to a winery in Hampshire to make white and rosé sparkling wine, which should be ready to drink by 2018.
Mr Mirkowski, 56, moved to the vineyard from Marlow, where he worked in telecommunications, with his wife Andrea and daughters Eloise and Verity.
He said: ?I?ve been making wine for 30 years, since I had my first house and first airing cupboard. It started out with home brew kits but it has moved on to natural ingredients.
?When my daughters were born I talked to my wife about spending more time at home so I could watch them grow up and help with things like the school run.?
Mr Mirkowski?s first job after buying the vineyard was to fence off the land from deer.
?Next we had to spread the compost and in the winter of 2012 I planted winter mustard, not because I wanted to be a mustard farmer but because it takes nitrogen from the atmosphere into the ground,? he said.
Mr Mirkowski, who still works in telecommunications part-time to help fund the vineyard, says he needed a lot of patience when starting out as the vines had to be bedded in before they could produce good grapes.
He said: ?There is always the temptation to force the vines when they are too young. We have had to wait patiently for the last two or three years just keeping everything nicely pruned.
?I knew that was part of the process. You need deep pockets and lots of patience and there?s still two-and-a-half years until we taste the wine.?
He has three varieties of grape at the vineyard, Pinot Meunier, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. The vines are planted on a slope to allow the most sunlight and prevent the grapes from being too acidic.
Mr Mirkowski said: ?These are the classic three grapes for champagne and my wine is going to be a blatant copy. They are all white grapes but two have red skins, so if you throw those in we can also make rosé.?
Twenty people spent 16 hours picking the grapes, being careful to reject those which were too small or damaged. The fruit was then packed in crates and sent to the winery, where they could make up to 6,000 bottles.
Mr Mirkowski said: ?The pickers were like robots but going up and down that slope was a killer. We picked more grapes than I thought and they are down at the winery now being pressed and bubbling away.
?I?m very pleased and in a way I feel like the bulk of my year?s work is behind me now. It?s a nice thing to know I?ve got a good harvest under my belt and the winery says the grapes are good quality.
?We will repeat it all next year and hopefully there will be even more grapes as the vines are still quite immature.
?It?s like planting something in your garden, it starts out quite small but after a few years it has taken over the garden.
?I?d love to have my own winery one day but you need planning permission and it can cost you about £500,000.?