MANY people admit to a love for wine – but few will take their passion as far as to buy a vineyard.

But this is exactly what writer Chris Boiling did as he approached his 50th birthday.

“I was going through a mid-life crisis,” he said.

“So it was either the sports car, the blonde or the vineyard. I chose the vineyard.”

With both of his children having left home, he and his wife Karen were suffering with empty nest syndrome and had played with the idea of buying property abroad, having almost paid off the mortgage on their home in Lancing.

Initial hopes were dashed when they realised property by Italian lakes were so expensive but then they found an €80,000 winehouse in the nearby Balkan country of Slovenia.

Chris said: “It was 15 minutes from some ski slopes, plus it had an orchard and some woods. We had started negotiating as it ticked off all these dreams we had, but then the crash of 2008 happened. That made everything that much more expensive.”

The pair shelved the idea – until they saw the same winehouse still on the market six months later and managed to snap it up for just €50,000.

Up until that point, Chris had been happy drinking £5 Chilean merlot from the supermarket. He knew nothing about wine – nor any of the Slovene language.

But all that was soon to change.

With half a hectare of vines to take care of, Chris began to look into exactly what he was growing.

Although he discovered laski rizling was a common variety in Austria, Slovenia and Hungary, in Croatia the grape is treated as a premium – and so he learned that if it was cultivated properly, it could be very successful.

“I love an underdog story and had felt sorry for my grapes – they’re 45 years old but they’re so hardy, they are there every year without fail.

“They say the best grapes grow where nothing else will, for example the soil isn’t particularly good at Chateauneuf du Pape but the grapes survive – as do mine.”

However his first attempt at making wine ended with him in a heap on the floor as he sought advice from the original seller.

He said: “We had a spritzer every time we crushed a few grapes.

“But it was a very hot day and by the evening my legs had buckled. I forgot everything he had taught me.”

Despite his neighbours being casual wine makers, Chris wanted to learn to make something to be proud of so he enrolled in a four-year

wine-making course at Plumpton College.

He also began talking to as many wine makers as possible, developing a particular interest in those who grew unique or lesser heard of grapes, and picked up a wine-making technique at Marof winery in the north east of Slovenia.

It is this technique he hopes to replicate when making wine from his own grapes – and which he has used to create a wine he will launch at Ten Green Bottles in Brighton tomorrow.

Earlier this week, we wrote about Mr Boiling’s discovery of famoso, an almost extinct grape found in Italy.

When he discovered it, there were only two vines in the world left. Now, six wine makers have grown it for themselves.

Chris has created 200 bottles made from the rare grape for the event – marking the launch of his first wine – which he hopes will convince people to try unfamiliar grape varieties.

He said: “There are more than 1,400 varieties of grape in the world and too often people stick with the same varieties, which are not always the most interesting ones, for example pinot grigio is actully quite bland.

“People should be more adventurous – they might find their new favourite wine.”

Chris launches a limited edition wine, made from ancient grape famoso at Ten Green Bottles in Jubilee Street, Brighton, from 4pm tomorrow.

Tickets are £20 and available at

The launch will offer a talk and a tasting, which will include other unusual wines from lesser-known grape varieties and regions such as furmint (Hungary), graevina (Croatia) and blaufrankisch (Austria).