In the last 10 years hectarage of planted vines in the UK has more than doubled making wine one of the fastest growing agricultural products in the UK. Visit any supermarket and you’ll discover many increasingly impressive bottles from some of the big Estates – Nyetimber, Chapel Down and Camel Valley in Cornwall to name a few.
Interest in English wine has surged along with the rise of craft beers and locally sourced produce. Customers are increasingly interested in tasting wines from lesser-known producers but who are these new winemakers?
Hence my quest – Grape Britain – to visit everyone of the 500+ English and Welsh Vineyards
Somewhere between the M3 and the south coast sits a criss-cross of country lanes, roads so entwined you easily find yourself lost. It is here in the heart of Hampshire you will find Hattingley Valley and it sits perfectly in this idyll. It was quite a sight for a Londoner – the bare branched trees forming tunnels along the roads. It had me wondering if I was on my way to Westeros.
Simon Robinson, a former lawyer, established Hattingley Valley in 2008 with the help of Emma Rice, Founder of Custom Crush, a wine analysis laboratory. Together they have grown the vineyard into a modern, eco-friendly winery over 60 acres across two sites. Simon and Emma and their teams take pride in the quality their work and the use of the latest technology. They were the UK’s first winery to adopt solar power.
TM Michael Boudot
Ten years on, the winery has attracted a passionate and dynamic group of individuals, excited about the explosion of interest in English wines and about the prospect of working at the forefront of English wine-making.
They are separated into two distinct teams who together look after the vineyard and make the wine. The wine-making team is made up of Emma and Jacob Leadley (top photo) with help from Will Perkins (2nd Photo)
The second part of the team (vineyard team) is headed up by Lauren Merryfield (no photo) (Vineyard Manager), Roman Henrion and Tom Birkett
Everyone I spoke to was passionate about viticulture and enthusiastic to try new techniques – from new ways to provide wind and frost protection, irrigation, nutrient application and canopy management (that’s looking after every part of the vine visible above the ground).
There is a huge commitment to evaluating the Hampshire terrior and planting an experimental range of grape varieties and root stock in search of the best fruit-bearing vines.
Hattingley Valley has the potential to be one of the leading and most respected of English sparkling wines. They have already won many global awards and are a leading player in the English sparkling wine industry
The team now manages 60 acres on two well-situated sites. The vines are nurtured throughout the growing year with an environmentally sensitive approach to enhance ripeness, yield and fruit quality.
Just some of the awards Hattingley Valley has won
I was lucky therefore to have an interview with Rebecca Fisher (Marketing and Events Manager) to talk about Hattingley Valley and also put some questions forward to Jacob Leadley, wine-maker.
VISIT AND INTERVIEW TO HATTINGLEY VALLEY
16th March 2018
The GrapeWizard inaugural interview
GW. What motivated you to join the wine industry ?
JL. It’s such an exciting time to be part of the emerging English wine industry.
GW. What’s going on in the month of March? Is this month any different from any other. Has the snow caused you any problems?
JL. We are in the midst of tirage (the drawing of wine from a barrel prior to bottling). Its always very stressful, but also very rewarding, it is just great to get the wines safely into bottle then have a beer!
GW. What would you say makes the winery here at Hattingley unique?
JL. At Hattingley we have created a reputation based on quality and we work hard to maintain and improve those standards. I have been here for 7 years and have worked tirelessly to ensure we make the best possible wines every year, the wines tell all.
GW. What is the best thing about working at Hattingley?
JL. It has to be the team – we have without doubt one of the most passionate and fun-loving teams going. Coming to work and working with people so passionate is infectious.
GW.What is the one thing that scares you ?
JL. An empty wine fridge and sub-zero temperatures in April.
GW. What are your predictions for the industry in the year ahead 2018?
JL. Its going to be a bumper year – both in terms of volume and quality, but I always say that in March.
GW. And now SIP-SAVE-STALK. What are sipping right now, investing in and what are your hot tips in the industry?
GW. What you are drinking at the moment?
JL. Gibbston Valley – School House Block (2012) – An amazingly pure and lighter Pinot from Central Otago, New Zealand (Sadly, it’s only available to buy in NZ!).
GW. What wine you would like to or have invested in and why?
JL. I wish I had put away more of our World Champion 2011 Blanc de Blancs (Hattingley’s 2011 Blanc de Blancs was awarded gold medal, best in class and ‘World Champion’ trophy in the Champagne and Sparkling Wine World Championships 2017)
GW. And finally who is the person or persons you most admire in the industry and why?
JL. Anyone who takes a chance and just enjoys what they do. This industry is full of passionate people and thats what makes the industry so vibrant
GW. ANd of course wine is always better if paired with music. What music pairing would you make for your Brut, Sparkling Rose, Kings Cuvee and Vintage?
JL. We play so much music in the winery that it is impossible to pick a song for each of these wines. What I will say is that these wines would not be as good without the music.
Hattingley’s range :
£30 each or 6 = £180
Perfect for toasting all occasions.
A blend of several vintage wines. The grapes were hand harvested and whole bunch pressed. 15% of this wine was put in French barrels to soften the wine’s natural acidity before secondary fermentation in bottle and a minimum of 18 months ageing on its lees and at 5 months on cork to add complexity.
Pale gold in colour with an abundance of fine bubbles, this has vibrant baked apple, creamy nougat and brioche notes on the nose, supported by a hint of toast and fresh red fruit
Vegetarian & Vegan Friendly
2013 CLASSIC CUVÉE MAGNUM
An elegant wine with delicate nose of hedgerow flowers , it has finesse, vibrant green fruit and a characteristic toasty flavour.
Pale gold in colour and well-balanced on the palate showing crisp acidity and fine mousse. It has delicate toasty characteristics from being aged on lees whilst the gentle oak flavour adds complexity.
This wine signifies their style – the grapes were harvested and 25% of the total blend was barrel fermented for 8 months in tank and barrel to create texture and richness
Vegetarian & Vegan Friendly
£36 each or 6 for £216
Perfect for balmy summer days.
Subtle and delicate in colour with bright red fruit and fresh acidity, supported by fine toasty notes developed by ageing in the bottle.
2014 was the best vintage to date at Hattingley Valley with near perfect growing conditions. Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier grapes were hand picked and gently pressed. Approximately 8% of the blend was fermented in Burgundy barrels. The wine spent 5 months in tank and barrel before tirage where 2% of Pinot Précoce was added to enhance colour, body and flavour.
£80 or 6 for £480
2013 KINGS CUVÉE
A very limited release, the Kings Cuvée is a premium blend of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. 100% barrel fermented and then aged for 8 months in 4-5 year old oak barrels.
A classic blend of grapes from the Home vineyard. It has a fine persistent mousse with soft approachable fruit, a subtle hint of autolysis and a delicate oak character.
After rigorous taste tests, only the top 7 barrels were selected out of 180 available. Once bottled the wine spent 30 months on lees and 6 months on cork before release.
Vegetarian & Vegan Friendly
No price on HV Website
2011 BLANC DE BLANCS
Selected from the very best parcels of Chardonnay.
A fabulous vintage for HV. The Chardonnay grapes were harvested between the second and third weeks of October with a good sugar:acidity ratio. The October sunshine also contributed to exceptionally ripe fruit and some wonderful wines.
This wine has a lovely deep gold colour with a green hue and a fine mousse.
The nose has delicate white fruit that gives way to a rich toasty and honeyed charm. The palate has ripe apples with a crisp yet soft acidity that is balanced by a hint of oak influence.
A rich and rounded mouth-feel and long finish.
It has great ageing potential.
As well as doing fabulous sparkling wines they also complement there range by 2 other wines.
2 bottles £40 or 12 for £240
Elegant English dessert wine full of aromas of peach and elderflower crisp acidity with a long finish.
Food pairing English blue cheese & any pudding
All vegan and vegetarian friendly
Hattingley Valley decided to hand harvest chardonnay grapes earlier than usual from the vineyards in order to retain a high level of acidity specifically for this project.
This Aqua Vitae is a smooth digestif to enjoy at the end of the meal and benefits from being served straight out of the freezer. It also makes an ideal white base spirit for a cocktail that focuses on English products.
…and that butterfly that features on the branding is the Silver-washed Fritillar. It is a rare butterfly found on the chalk-based vineyard at Hattingley Valley in rural Hampshire. The presence of the pretty butterfly indicates the vineyard is a healthy environment with a rich biodiversity.
The weather may have been bleak and cold on the day of my visit but the team and their welcome could not have been warmer. I was very impressed by the team and and the vineyard. I would recommend HV to anyone looking for a fine English sparkling wine. I’ve already got my bottle of Kings Cuvee and my playlist ready for the next ray of sunshine…
GW MUSIC PAIRING
Enjoy Kings Cuvee with :