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Wagstaff ploughs Venture pay-off into British sparkling wine

Mike Wagstaff has ploughed some of the near-£20m he made from the sale of Venture Production into creating "one of the finest sparkling wines in the UK".

Mr Wagstaff was chief executive of Venture, the North Sea gas group, when Centrica bought the business in a £1.3bn deal last year. Energy market watchers have been waiting for Wagstaff's next move, but rather than head up an oil and gas company, he bought Greyfriars Vineyard in Surrey earlier this month.

Mr Wagstaff said this is the third time in history that the UK can produce excellent wines: in Roman and medieval times the slightly warmer climate meant vineyards prospered.

Greyfriars specialises in chardonnay and pinot noir varietals and Mr Wagstaff claims the local geology is "the same as the Champagne region" in France.

"I want to expand this small vineyard – there are another 20 acres to plant – and multiply production by 10 to 20 times to create a commercial-scale operation," he said.

Mr Wagstaff tried to get Centrica to pay at least £9 a share for Venture last year. Investors settled at 845p.