Photo: Simpsons Wine Estate
Simpsons Wine Estate in Barham, Kent, which planted its first 10 hectares of vines in 2014 and will treble that to 30 hectares by May next year, has just marked its first vintage after a summer growing season characterized by "amazing" weather and a "very good" Chardonnay harvest, according to co-owner Ruth Simpson.
Speaking in a phone interview last week after the official celebration of the harvest, she said one of the main advantages for the new winery was that "we haven't had any weather pressure." While Pinot Meunier grapes didn't develop as fast as they might have, so weren't harvested, the season was "decent for Pinot Noir," with the result that, unusually for southern England, "we haven't had any weather pressure."
Anticipated production is around 22,000 bottles from the first 10-hectare block of vines planted, with the possibility of experimenting with making up to 1,000 liters of still Chardonnay in light of the favorable weather, she said. The vineyard benefited from "really good sunshine hours."
Ruth and Charles Simpson, while new to English sparkling wine, have been making wine for 15 years at Domaine Sainte Rose in the Languedoc, where their output is now running at between 350,000 and 400,000 bottles a year.
"We'd been watching the U.K. market with a lot of interest," she said. "We happened to come across land being advertized near Canterbury and bought it, and when Champagne Taittinger acquired land nearby subsequently, it was "a huge endorsement of our site selection."
Simpsons has benefited from a U.K. government grant to help fund its winery, and is part of a growing sparkling wine industry in the southern counties of England.