Ruth and Charles Simpson, winemakers with an established vineyard in the south of France who have branched out into English wine, are preparing to harvest grapes this year from a second plot of vines recently planted on their land near Canterbury.
Ruth Simpson at the London wine fair, May 2018. Photo: Guy Collins
The vineyard, at Barham on the slopes of the North Downs in Kent, south-east England, was initially planted in 2014, with those grapes being first harvested in 2016, Ruth Simpson said during an interview at the London Wine Fair.
A second tranche of vines planted in 2016 will be ready for harvesting this year, while a third group planted last year will be ready to supply grapes for the 2019 vintage, she said.
While the Kent vineyard has been expanding, progress has been slowed by the frost that damaged vineyards in southern England and elsewhere in the spring of 2017.
``Sadly in 2017 we got badly hit by frost,'' she said. ``We lost 60 percent of the crop. We had a really warm March, and everything was three weeks ahead of schedule,'' leaving vines vulnerable when the cold snap struck.
Their Kent vineyard produced 22,000 bottles in both 2016 and 2017, and the goal is to increase output to around 250,000 bottles. In France, where the Simpsons have made wine for 16 years at their Domaine Sainte Rose vineyard in Languedoc, they already produce between 350,000 and 400,000 bottles a year.
The Kent vineyard already sells a still white wine based from Chardonnay grapes called The Roman Road, a reference to a well-known feature of the local landscape. The wine is matured in used Roussanne barrels brought from Sainte Rose.
``There's no reason why we can't challenge Chablis,'' Ruth Simpson said.``We're on the chalk.'' The wine is priced on their website simpsonswine.com at 22.95 pounds ($30.50) a bottle and is distributed through Seckford Wines and also listed at Bonham's restaurant in London.
The first sparkling wine to be released from the vineyard will be a rose at the end of this year, she said, with a classic cuvee due in the first half of next year.