Winding Wood Vineyard, between Wickham and Kintbury, released its first vintage (2015) of English sparkling wine made using the traditional Champagne method in December 2018 and it’s now available for sale – see contact details below. The proprietor, Christopher Cooke, explains how and why the vineyard came into being and their plans for the future.
Throwaway remarks can have unforeseen consequences.
As I sat with my good friend Robert having a sundown drink one summer evening back in 2010 we gazed upon our flock of Jacobs sheep nibbling away happily in a paddock. Having been a farmer with many more herbivores under his care in an earlier life, Robert sympathised when I remarked that they were a lot of trouble for the return.
“Then why don’t you plant a vineyard instead – and then you can drink the results,” he chortled. The die was cast and three years later, after hours of research and many visits to other vineyards, the fields were ploughed up, sub-soiled (my word, the rubble we found) and 2,500 vines were hand-planted into virgin soil. Oh, and Robert was roped in as my vineyard partner.
Roll forward eight years and, were you to have passed by the vineyard at the end of October, you would have witnessed we two vignerons plus a troupe of green-fingered volunteers patiently moving down each row of vines and neatly snipping off our latest harvest of grapes.
Of course, English still wine has been around for years – in varying levels of quality and certainly nothing to match a good white Burgundy – but we are part of a new wave of English wine growers who are making English fizz using the traditional champagne methods (two fermentations). In southern England we share much of the geology with Champagne in northern France; terroir-wise, with chalk and flint, the soil is ideal for growing pinot noir and chardonnay grapes. Then add the perceptible change in the UK climate and you have the perfect (potentially, at least) growing conditions. Did you know, for instance, that Tattinger has bought land in Kent to plant vines while Pommery has invested in Hampshire?
You do, however, need the patience of Job and it is a good idea to start out on such an enterprise before you enter your 60s because it is a long hard road – six years at least – before you receive your first bottle of fizz. At Winding Wood Vineyard we have just released our first vintage which spent three years maturing on its lees (bottles on their sides in contact with the yeast) at Hattingley Valley winery near Winchester, where we are fortunate to have Emma Rice (twice UK wine maker of the year) ably assisted by Jacob Leadley looking after our precious juice.
We have our 2016 and 2017 wine bottled and quietly lying on lees: while this year’s juice, from what has been an amazing harvest, is fermenting in both steel tanks and oak barrels. Hopefully, we will now have corks popping with our fizz for the next decade and beyond.
Has it all been worth it — for sure!
Please contact Winding Wood Vineyard directly for more information and to place orders.