Back to All Profiles

Amanda Engstrom of Ark Wines in Suffolk

Winery Profile

Ark Wines

A vineyard with experimentation and creativity in its soul and family at its heart.
“Time just seems to be the perfect ingredient to get things tasting good. It’s one of the best things I’ve learned since I’ve started.”

Reflecting on my conversation with Amanda Engstrom, one half of the father-daughter partnership behind Ark Wines in Suffolk, this quote has really stayed with me. To quickly progress from planting their first vines in 2018 to winning the Best Red Wine trophy at the 2022 Wine GB East Awards for their Pinot Noir 2020 is remarkable. Especially considering that Amanda nearly poured it all down the drain before deciding to bottle it. Indeed, recognising when to go slow and give things time to develop is an important part of Amanda and her father Hans’ winemaking philosophy. That and a willingness to experiment without fear of making mistakes. With a clear sense of what they are trying to achieve, Ark Wines are producing an incredible range of small batch wines. The kind that will stand out at a dinner party and juice your street cred among your wine-drinking friends.

Amanda left her TV career in Bristol to join her father in setting up the vineyard. Juggling a Wine Production course at Plumpton, Amanda threw herself into it. Learning valuable practical lessons in the vineyard ahead of the theory in the classroom. Amanda and Hans initially planted Chardonnay, Pinot Meunier, and Pinot Noir as they considered whether to go down the English sparkling wine route, together with Pinot Gris given their love of blush-style Rosé. As a sign of the exciting things to come, they also each chose a “wildcard” variety – Amanda going for Riesling and Hans, Gamay. Fast forward to today, they have just over 20,000 vines in the ground, adding Acolon and Bacchus to their repertoire. As the family do not have a farming or winemaking background, Amanda admits to feelings of imposter syndrome at times, but how well their wine has been received is strong motivation. “It feels like we’re riding the wave, which has got us here today.”

With three harvests now under their belt and 2023 their biggest yet, Amanda and Hans have built an impressive platform, in large part due to their deep respect for their terroir. “Our ethos has always been to be sustainable and to have as little impact on the surrounding wildlife and plants as possible.” This is evident from the changes they have made around the vineyard. To offset their water usage, they have drilled their own bore hole and any wastewater is treated before being fed back into their man-made reservoir. To address their energy consumption, the winery roof is now home to 58 solar panels which supply 20 kw of power a day to the winery building and machinery, two car charger stations, and the neighbouring residential buildings. On the farming side, they are working on using only organic / sustainable plant protectors and seaweed for nutrition, in order to restore their soil and encourage a diverse ecosystem. Rather than targeting being certified organic / sustainable at this stage, Ark’s low impact approach is about doing what they can as a small family business to make wine for years to come with as little effect on the environment as possible.

The Perfect Spot

Gently sloping vineyards in the Stour Valley

Having left Sweden in 2000, Hans, Amanda, and their family found Mount Farm in 2018 in the village of Stanstead – 30 minutes’ from Bury St. Edmunds in Suffolk. In thinking about how best to use the land, Hans decided to set up a vineyard. We should all be very grateful that he did. As a site, it has all the qualities you would want. Sitting at 60-80 metres’ altitude, the 32 acre vineyard is North-South facing with a gentle slope in the East Anglian Stour Valley. It benefits from a gentle Atlantic breeze, as well as the dry and sunny summers known to the region. The site’s clay-loam soil, well fertilised by the free range chickens and sheep who previously resided, shares illustrious kin in the Barossa, Napa Valley, and North-East Pomerol regions.

Attention grabbing Wines.

With the English wine ecosystem generally awash with sparkling wine, Ark are pushing the still wine boundaries and showing why Suffolk is a must visit region.

Fermented in stainless steel tanks and barrel aged, Ark’s wines are unfiltered, unfined, and given the time they need to truly develop. “If anything doesn’t taste great, it’s fine. Just leave it for a few months to a year to see how it turns out. It’s crazy how it might change on a month-to-month basis.”

Amanda’s go slow rule continues to pay off and then some. Take Ark’s first sparkling release – a 100% Pinot Meunier Col Fondo style. It started life as a Pet Nat but too much sediment forced a rethink. After racking off most of the lees and adding some sugar, Amanda transformed it into a popular Col Fondo style full of red fruit and cranberry notes. Ark’s Bacchus 2021 has also benefited from time. Aged for 9 months in new oak barrels, it’s smokey and aromatic with hints of toffee popcorn and cedar. It’s Bacchus, but not as you know it. Such creativity can also be found in their Ripasso Noir; satiating Hans’ desire to make a really good, punchy red wine with the signature Ark flourish. To get the alcohol level up, they dried Acolon grapes Ripasso style and then blended with Pinot Noir. It’s full bodied, spicy, fruity, and ageing very well. So well that it’s now a collector’s item, with only a small number of bottles left at the time of writing at a local wine bar in Felixstowe. Fear not though as Amanda confirmed they will definitely be making more in the future. Complimenting this stellar line up is their recently released Riesling 2022. Benefitting from the heatwave in 2022, “it tastes like a Riesling should, which is quite cool.” As a big Riesling fan, this is definitely quite cool and shows why we should all be excited about the meteoric growth of English still wine in the next few years.

Amanda Ergstrom Ark Wines tasting from tank

Stand Out Bottle Design To Match The Style And Quality Of The Wine

Ark Bacchus from Suffolk with candle light.

Yet, it’s not just the style of Ark’s wine which is creative and distinctive, but also their label designs and colourful sealing wax. Ark have collaborated with a different artist for each vintage to design the bottle’s label. Swedish oil painter Anders Palmèr took up the mantle for 2020 with his dreamy landscapes and use of bright playful colours. As testament to how talented the Engstrom family are, Amanda’s younger
sister Karla created humorous illustrations centred around
trolls for the 2021 labels (as a nod to their Scandi background). The vibrant and passionate artwork of Moroccan female artist Hiba Baddou’s Osmoses series was then chosen for 2022; the hottest year so far in their vineyard. These designs pair beautifully with their sealing wax. Forest greens, whites, blacks, and blues. All done by hand with music in the background. One of Amanda’s more relaxing but time
consuming jobs in the winery – her go slow mantra in action again.

Ark Pinot Noir and Stew – The Perfect Match

Ark Pinot Noir is earthy and smokey with hints of cherry. It’s an elegant and light bodied wine with lingering tannins and hints of spice, black pepper and dark fruit.

It’s a great all year round wine. One of our favourite pairings Ark Pinot Noir with a traditional lamb or beef stew for the perfect night in.

January Seasonal Produce_venison stew