Stephen Skelton has been involved with growing vines and making wine since 1975. He spent two years in Germany, working at Schloss Schönborn in the Rheingau and studying at Geisenheim, the world-renowned college of winegrowing and wine-making, with the late Professor Helmut Becker. In 1977 he returned to the UK to establish the vineyards at Tenterden in Kent (now the home of the UK’s largest wine producer, Chapel Down Wines), and made wine there for 22 consecutive vintages. From 1988 to 1991 he was also winemaker and general manager at Lamberhurst Vineyards, at that time the largest winery in the UK. He now works as a consultant to vineyards and wineries in the UK and is currently setting up vineyards for the production of sparkling wine.
In 1986 Stephen started writing and lecturing about wine and has contributed articles to many different publications. In 1989 he wrote (and published) his first book, The Vineyards of England and in 2001 his second, The Wines of Britain and Ireland (Faber and Faber) which won the André Simon Award for Drinks Book of the Year. He is the English and Welsh vineyards contributor for the annual wine guides written by Hugh Johnson, Oz Clarke and Tom Stevenson and wrote the section on English and Welsh wine in the 3rd edition of Jancis Robinson’s Oxford Companion to Wine. He has also written “Viticulture – A guide to commercial grape growing for wine production” which is aimed at MW and Diploma students.
Stephen was a director of the English Vineyards Association (EVA) from 1982–1995 and of its successor organisation, the United Kingdom Vineyards Association (UKVA) from 1995–2003. He was Chairman of the UKVA from 1999–2003. He was also at various times between 1982 and 1986 Treasurer, Secretary and Chairman of the South East Vineyards Association, Secretary of the Circle of Wine Writers between 1990 and 1997 and has served on various EU committees in Brussels representing UK winegrowers. In 1999 he took three years off from the wine business to do a BSc in Multimedia Technology and Design at Brunel University. While at Brunel, Stephen was awarded the Ede and Ravenscroft Prize.
In 2003 Stephen became a Master of Wine, winning the prestigious Robert Mondavi Trophy for gaining the highest marks in the Theory section of the examination. He served on the MW Education Committee from 2003 – 2009 and was the education course wine coordinator. In 2009 he was elected to the Council of the Institute of Masters of Wine. In 2005 he won the AXA Millésimes Communicator of the Year Award for services to the MW education programme.
Stephen now runs tastings and tutors MW candidates in the intricacies of passing the notoriously difficult tasting examination. He has also judged or still judges on: the International Wine Challenge, the International Wine and Spirit Competition, the Japan Wine Challenge and the Veritas Wine Awards and is Panel Chairman for the English and Welsh wines for the Decanter World Wine Awards.
Stephen's latest book, The UK Vineyards Guide 2010 is available to buy online here: lulu.com/content/7848482
Stephen has also written Viticulture - An introduction to commercial grape growing for wine production, which is also available online: lulu.com/content/688007
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