Did you know that:
England has 116 wineries and if counting the non-commercials as well the figure is at almost 400. *
The wineries total production at the moment is about three millions of bottles a year. *
The total vine growing area of commercial nature now is up at around 1,350 hectares. *
The largest vineyard is measuring about 250 acres.
Not only the soil in the southern of England is similar to the one in Champagne, also the climate shows similarities.
English sparkling wine has beaten Champagne’s in international blind tasting competitions.
An English wine labeled ‘quality wine’ is subject to rigorous control.
Although no one will ever claim English sparkling wine to be superior to its, over the channel-neighbor, that doesn’t mean they should be neglected. The English fizz boom should be taken seriously and one that proofs that statement is the Sussex sparkling wine producer of RidgeView Estate. All you need, to end your suspicious thoughts on English wine, is a bottle of their 2006 Grosvenor!
To get an insight in the Sussex wine production and why it’s possible to produce sparkling wine of such quality, as RidgeView Estate has proven for a decade now, who can answer us better than the producer?
Hi Mardi Roberts! I am a big fan of your wines. Could you please tell me about yourself and RidgeView Estate? How did it all start? What is your own background?
I am the Sales and Marketing Manager for RidgeView. My parents in law began the company in 1994. Mike and Christine Roberts sold a successful computer company in the 80’s that they had built up from their front room to over 400 employees across the UK. After leaving the computer business they wanted a lifestyle choice and ever the entrepreneur along with a love of wine saw the potential of creating quality sparkling wine on English soil.
I met Mike and Christine’s son Simon Roberts in Australia at Brown Brothers whilst Simon was training to be a Winemaker in 1999. I came to England in 1999 and have been a part of RidgeView since the first bottle was sold in 2000 – involved in Sales and Marketing.
Originally in Australia I achieved my Law Degree but coming from a wine growing region in North East Victoria I always worked part time in vineyards and wineries and had a natural interest. Simon and I married in 2005. Simon shares the winemaking with his Father. My sister-in-law also joined the company in 2006 as General Manager. We now have a great team of 8 full-time employees assisted by our own in-house Nanny that we all share.
Where you ever afraid the project was too big – that you were in deep water?
All growth has been incremental and planned according to interest and demand. Obviously the first few years of development before sales were slightly nerve racking, however there has always been a forward looking business plan of at least 5 years at a time.
Wine cultivation slowly finds its way north. Why is it possible to cultivate vines at RidgeView?
We concentrate solely on the sparking grape varieties that are most suited to a cool climate. England also benefits from the Gulf Stream, which helps raise the temperature. Warm summer days with relatively cool evenings maintain the crucial balance of sugar versus acidity – perfect for sparkling wine.
|Pinot grapes at RidgeView Estate**|
Which varietals do you cultivate?
Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier.
And which is your favorite grape to work with?
As in Champagne we wouldn’t be without any of them.
The soil – is it similar to the one in Champagne?
The South Downs of England actually share the same chalky limestone ridge as Champagne with a relatively similar climate.
How big is your annual production?
Increasing year on year. The last harvest in 2009 we pressed over 210 tonne of grapes. We are currently bottling 170, 000 bottles from the previous years harvest. Moving to over 500,000 bottles in 2012.
I love the 2006 Grosvenor! Tell me more about the wine!
100% Chardonnay from a positively warm summer of 2006. The Chardonnay brings fresh upfront fruit which is crisp and refreshing, followed by the balance of biscuit and toast undertones and a long lasting finish. It has performed very well in international competitions; Silver in Chardonnay du Monde; and Gold and Regional Trophy at Decanter World Wine Awards. The Grosvenor has always been a firm favorite of sparkling wine expert Tom Stevenson.
|Mike and Simon Roberts with the Winemaker of the year trophy 2009**|
Can I keep it? Does it evolve with further age?
Our Chardonnay dominant wines tend to keep very well whilst still retaining the fruit freshness. As we are relatively young company it is difficult to say exactly how long to keep the wine, however I think the Grosvenor 2006 will keep for at least another 5 years.
I want to compare Champagne to your Grosvenor to understand differences and similarities. Which type of Champagne should i go for?
To give a fair comparison it would have to be a Blanc de Blancs. Pol Roger always makes a very good Blanc de Blancs.
Does it differ a lot in style of your wines when comparing vintages in England?
We have always prided ourselves on the consistency of our blends throughout their vintages.
|Vine rows at RidgeView Estate in Sussex**|
Would you say that sparkling wine is where the future lies in the British wine production or are you just as good in producing reds and whites?
We concentrate solely on sparkling and see this is our future. We feel that it is the best wine most suitable to producing from our terroir and following as they do in France so well – making wine specific to the soil and weather conditions.
Where can your wines be found? Are they being exported?
Our wines can be found at in the UK at Waitrose, Wine Society, Oddbins, Laithwaites, Sunday Times Wine Club, Berry Brothers, Enotria, Harrods and other specialty resellers around the country. We currently export to Japan, Finland, Germany, Norway, Denmark and soon to the USA.
Can I order directly from you? Do you ship outside of UK?
Yes you can order direct from RidgeView. We can ship outside the UK with prices on application.
|State of the art cellar!**|
Can I visit RidgeView?
We are open to visitors Monday to Saturday between 11am and 4pm.
A big thank you Mardi for taking the time explaining about British sparkling wine and RidgeView Estate especially.
So, what can I expect from the 2006 Grosvenor Blanc de blancs? The good summer and following autumn gave RidgeView very good wood ripening and bud formation – hence a very heavy crop for 2006.The hot summer showed similarities with the just as warm 2003 summer when it comes to days exceeding 29°C (equally 26 days for 2003 and 2006).
Harvest started in October the 8th and continued for ten days until the 18th. The Chardonnay grapes were handpicked and then followed by whole bunch pressing conducted with respect taken to the must separation which is stipulated by – and within the CIVC permitted limits (In the UK the Champagne Bureau is the educational and promotional arm of the Comité Interprofessionnel du Vin de Champagne based in Epernay).
The alcoholic fermentation underwent with yeast specially prepared by the Institute Œnologique de Champagne. Then malolactic conversion before maturation in the cave.The sugar content was almost perfect ranging from 10.3% to 11.0%. The acid structure reflected the warmth of the year with slightly higher pH between 3.10 and 3.25 and total acidity averaging 10.9g/l in a range of 9.3g/l to 13.0g/l. The final product resulted in an alcohol content of 12%, an acidity level of Acid 7g and pH 2.95. The dosage in the 2006 Grosvenor is 11.6/l and the overall production 5,373 bottles.
Tasting note on the 2006 Grosvenor Blanc de blancs:
A fine, light colour. Still quite youthful bouquet just starting to show hints of maturity. Classic scents of yeast and breadiness, wet rocks, green apple peel, citrus and grape fruit. A slight floral touch adds personality. The flavours resembles the bouquet although the fruit seems a bit more mature and reminds me of a mixture between peaches, apples and pears. Fine minerality, lovely small mousse and newly baked bread.
Quite rich taste and honestly, although there are some dissimilarities, I’m not sure I would have been outside of Champagne in a blind tasting. Maybe the taste differs but on the other hand – who want’s copies of the original? The diversity and uniqueness of every cultivation site are exactly what makes wine the world’s most exciting drink to follow. Bravo RidgeView!
(2006 Grosvenor Blanc de blancs, RidgeView Estate, Sussex, England, 89 points)
The 2006 Grosvenor was bought at Berry Bros & Rudd at £ 21.10. Worth every penny!
* In a recent article by Jancis Robinson where she consulted MW Stephen Skelton the commercial plantings are estimated by Mr. Skelton to the mentioned hectares. The production stats and amount of commercial growers are also mentioned in the following link.
** Shown with the friendly permission of RidgeView Estate.