The production team were in the middle of bottling, when Antoine, our winemaker, saw something small and dark scuttle into the corner of the winery out of the corner of his eye. The team downed tools to investigate and uncovered not spiders as initially thought, but a small family of beetles.
After capturing them all carefully and releasing them unharmed in the garden we decided to do a little bit of research into these rather beautiful creatures. Initially we thought they were female stag beetles, but after a thorough google search we found that they were in fact a species of beetle called a Cockchafer - more commonly known as the May bug!
Apparently the Cockchafer was once abundant throughout Europe, particularly in rural areas as they feed primarily on oak leaves and conifer needles. However as the use of pesticides grew in the 20th Century, the beetles were virtually eradicated. Recently, they have started to make a reappearance in those rural areas that employ sustainable farming practices with minimal use of pesticides - like we do here at Hambledon.
Apparently in some parts of France and Germany in the 19th century Cockchafers were considered to be quite a delicacy! A 19th century French recipe for cockchafer soup reads: "roast one pound of cockchafers without wings and legs in sizzling butter, then cook them in a chicken soup, add some veal liver and serve with chives on toast". We asked Antoine if he'd like to have a go at making this in honour of his ancestry, but he declined.....