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Choc on the Tyne: an Interview with Lindisfarne Winery

By: Bridget Hamilton in Food and Drink, our story 3 Comments

Nestled only a few miles off the coast of Northumberland is the ‘Holy Island’ of Lindisfarne, a treat for wildlife lovers, photographers, and foodies alike. It’s an exciting historical area and we’re lucky enough to have it right on our doorstep.

Although we have made bespoke chocolates for Lindisfarne Winery for several years, mixing their gorgeous sloe gin, strawberry liqueur and Lindisfarne Mead into three decadent truffles, this year we’re teaming up for an even bigger operation. Incorporating eight different flavours in four newly designed chocolate boxes, the Winery’s new chocolate collection is an absolute treat. We caught up with Ian Robinson and Chris Walwyn-James, the new managing directors of Lindisfarne Ltd, to see what plans they had for the business and what they thought of the new range.

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What is the history of Lindisfarne Mead?

Lindisfarne Mead is the brain child of Michael Hackett and his wife Elizabeth. Their son Lindsay later took over the management of the company, building upon the historical provenance of Mead production on the island by the monks of old under St Aidan and St Cuthburt. This was back when Lindisfarne was part of the ancient kingdom of Northumbria, which stretched from the Humber up to the Forth, and included Edinburgh and the Borders. Lindsay formed the company in the early 1960s.

 

How do you make mead?

There are a number of recognised ways of making Mead. One of the oldest was utilised by the Romans involving grape juice, honey, alcohol and other selected ingredients. That approach was the one inherited in Northumbria during the Roman occupation, and the one adopted by Lindsay Hacket when undertaking his research in the late 1950’s. It remains the corner stone of our production today.

 

What attracted you to take on the business?

Lindisfarne is a superb established local brand which is steeped in the history of the region. It is in a wonderful location, both in which to work and from which to have further inspiration to build the business further. They are good people to work with and a wonderful fit with the Alnwick Rum and Alnwick Brewery Companies/brands which are also part of our Harry Hotspur Group of companies. We are dedicated to developing and retaining top local brands in the North East.

 

What are you planning for the business in the future?

Plans for the future….to do what we do and do it well. Further modest manageable product diversity is desirable, modestly increase UK sales and make the international market more aware of our products and their quality. We will continue to build a sustainable business, with good long term loyal customers and suppliers and maintain and develop a good broad based dedicated and happy workforce.

 

What are the interesting things about running a business on Lindisfarne?

One of the most interesting is the tidal influence on the day’s work, particularly for those staff who live off the island on the mainland. Receipt of inward supplies and deliveries to customers can sometimes pose additional challenges because of the tides. It also of course hugely impacts upon visitor flows to and from the island and the footfall itself at the Winery.

 

Why did you decide to introduce these chocolates?

Our business focus is on promoting quality “home grown” products. Those products are a mix of our own produced on Holy Island, those products produced in partnership with other quality producers , and where ever possible for those partners themselves to be located “close to home”. We have been selling chocolates since the turn of the century.

Davenport’s not only fulfills the “quality producer close to home” criteria, enabling us to blend our unique flavours with the skills of the artisan chocolatier (as we proudly say on the box!), but also following market research and our discussions with them we felt that Jane Williams and her team were an ideal partner upon which to now build a new exciting group product line to the benefit of both businesses. Our companies share the same values and approach to business.

 

What is the history of Lindisfarne itself?

Lindisfarne (Lindisfarena) is the name given to the island  by the Anglo-Saxons as long ago as the 5th century (It is one of a group of 15 islands off the Northumberland coast called the Farnes – 20 if one counts the land revealed at low tide) The most likely derivation of the word Lindis is the Celtic for small lake or pool, as this is a noteable distinguishing characteristic of the island: its own precious water. Farne most likely derives from Farran, simply meaning land. Prior to that it was known as by the old Celtic name Medcaut, presumed to derive from the Latin Midicata (English translation ‘Healing’ (Island)) owing to its reputation for medicinal herbs.

It started to become more widely known during the early AD 600’s when St Aidan moved there from Iona, Scotland and established a Monastery in AD 635 under the patronage of King Oswald who resided across the water at Bamburgh, then the capital of his kingdom of Northumbria and located only a few miles south of today’s border with Scotland.

Today’s more familiar name of Holy Island was probably ‘adopted’ around the turn of the previous century in reference to and in reverence of the saints Aidan and Cuthbert. The first subriquet reference to it was in Latin as Insula Sacra in the 11th century. The island is today more correctly “The Holy Island of Lindisfarne”. The modern use of language and the printed word tends to dictate a shortening for practical purposes. Thus more commonly today the island is called Holy Island, but very often still just Lindisfarne.

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We’re extremely proud of our new boxes and the taste of their contents, which showcases a truly local artisan collaboration right here in the North of England. Thankfully, you can get in on the action whether you live in Ponteland or Peterborough by shopping online here.

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3 Responses

  1. Susan ross says:

    Lovely to hear that the partnership and range is expanding but the information isn’t correct as it was Michael Hackett and his wife Elizabeth who set up the company. Lindsay (my late father and Michael and Elizabeth’s son) took over the managing directorship from my Grandfather and developed and ran this business until last year.
    Best wishes Susan

    • Susan,
      Thanks so much for taking time to comment. Sorry our information only stretch back so far. We’re a family business too (albeit a little younger!) and I can imagine how important the companies heritage is. We’ll get the article updated to reflect your comment above. Thanks again.

  2. Susan ross says:

    Thank you Michael and all the very best wishes
    Susan

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