Few sites can rival Jenkyn Place. Nestled in the North Hampshire Downs near the quintessentially-English village of Bentley, our vineyards cover 12 acres (or around five hectares) of what were once hop fields.
The same greensand soils covering marlstone in which hops once thrived are now nurturing our Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier, the classic grape varieties used to make Champagne. The vineyards sit on sheltered, chalky, south-facing slopes at 100 metres above sea level, making them ideal for growing the high-quality grapes we need to produce top English sparkling wines.
Our first vines were planted in 2004, with further vines added in 2007 and 2010. Our vineyards are now at full capacity, with their rows filled with some 15,000 vines. Steve Williams and Stewart Sandy started out working on the estate but are now full time in the vineyard.
“We have a great history in England of producing fine sparkling wines on greensand,” explains winemaker Dermot Sugrue. “The greensand topsoil at Jenkyn Place is actually scattered with eroded fragments of chalk, creating an unusual – maybe unique – combination, which is beginning to be translated into the wines. If chalk is associated with more gently-fruited wines of notable finesse and greensand delivers a rounder fruit profile, then we are seeing an element of both in our 2013 vintage. Indeed, the older Jenkyn Place cuvees from 2006 to 2010 have, over the years, achieved quite brilliant levels of completeness once maturity was reached.”
A PLACE FOR GROWING
England and its Northern European neighbours may have marginal climates – in which the ripeness of the grapes can vary from year to year – but the effects of climate change mean that our vineyards in Hampshire are getting warmer. The average temperature in the South-East of England is only 1°C cooler than in Champagne, which explains why so many Champagne houses are investing in the Home Counties.
As the climate changes, experts expect vines to be planted further north than the traditional 50 degrees of latitude limit. The cool conditions that were once prized in the Champagne region for helping grapes to retain their acidity for sparkling wines are increasingly being found here in the South of England.
“Since my family began planting vines at Jenkyn Place in 2004, it’s been fascinating to watch the growth of the English wine industry,” says manager Camilla Bladon. “There are now more than 500 vineyards spread throughout England and Wales, including 42 in our beloved Hampshire. It’s a very exciting time to be making English sparkling wine, which has gone from being a ‘niche’ or ‘novelty’ drink to a high-quality product served in top restaurants and at the Queen’s banquets. As more and more experienced winemakers travel to England, I think the reputation of our nation’s wines will continue to grow.”