Two Hampshire wine producers join English vineyard expansion drive

Hambledon and Jenkyn Place have both increased their area under vine, buoyed by the most fruitful year in English wine’s history in 2018, taking their annual capacity to 500,000 bottles and 35,000-40,000 respectively.

Hambledon’s new underground cellar in progress

Hambledon, which is no stranger to ambitious expansion plans, is aiming to increase its annual production capacity to over 500,000 bottles per year by 2021. This figure will eventually double to one million, according to the producer.

Claiming to be England’s oldest commercial vineyard, established in 1952, the producer’s project is well under way with the its new underground cellars currently under construction.

As part of its expansion efforts, Hambledon has planted an additional 150 acres of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier as well as constructed a new winery and installed a new disgorgement line.

The new underground cellars will ultimately have the capacity to store around 1.8 million bottles for ageing sur lattes. Wines made from the newly planted vines will be available for sale from 2024.

Commenting on its efforts, Ian Kellett, managing director of Hambledon, said: “Our aim is to create one of the leading brands of English sparkling wine, 100% from estate-grown fruit all planted on chalk geology, with industry-leading winemaking skills and winery technology.

“This expansion is a key milestone in our long term development plans. It has been achieved with the clear support of our investors and shareholders, without taking any debt and in a manner to bring freehold ownership of the land into the hands of Hambledon Vineyard plc in due course”.

In 2015, Hambledon successfully raised £2.75 million to boost its operation by offering investors “English Fizz” bonds through crowdfunding site CrowdBnk. The vineyard offered mini bonds with a return value of 8% cash per annum, rolled up into a 40% interest payment after five years, and “fizz rewards” which gave investors a number of bottles of Classic Cuvée every year during the investment term.

Meanwhile, on a slightly smaller scale, Jenkyn Place, based near the village of Bentley, has also increased its foothold from with 12 to 14 acres of vines.

Vineyard owner Simon Bladon commented: “It will be three years before the new Pinot Noir vines are in full production, adding to the vineyard’s existing twelve acres of Chardonnay, Pinot Meunier and Pinot Noir.

“Our vines were first planted on this former hop farm in 2004, and the new acreage will take the vineyard’s potential yield from 35,000 to 40,000 bottles a year”. The new vines are protected by Jenkyn Place’s resident rabbit catcher, Bertie the spaniel. 

Hampshire’s Jenkyn Place with its team of Romanian vineyard workers.

With a record year in 2018, David Parkinson, CEO of WineGB, has predicted that as many as 18 million bottles of wine were produced in the UK last year. The industry body will be conducting a survey in the first quarter of this year to ascertain the true extent of what was produced.

Among those producers also investing in their future are Kent-based Gusbourne, with Lord Ashcroft, the majority shareholder in the enterprise, investing a further £2.7 million in the business. In total Gusbourne raised £3.7 million which equates to 6,221,699 new shares.

Furthermore, fellow Kent-based producer Chapel Down also struck a deal to lease a further 388 acres of viticultural land adjoining its existing vineyards on the North Downs, taking its potential production volume to one million bottles.

The new site at Boarley and Abbey Farm in Boxley will be planted between 2019 and 2021, resulting in a total area under long term leases of 788 acres. Once this site is planted, the total vineyard area from which Chapel Down will source grapes – including owned land, land under long term leases and contract supply – will exceed 950 acres.

Sussex wine producer Rathfinny has also embarked on an ambitious planting programme, having released its first wines last year. Rathfinny planted its first 60,000 vines on a 20ha site in April 2012 and has now planted over 230,000 vines across 75ha. It has plans to plant out a further 91 hectares of vines, which is expected to produce over 1,200 tonnes of grapes by 2020 to 2022.

Smaller scale Surrey producer Albury has acquired grapes from a new vineyard which it is converting to organic viticulture, and also has plans to launch its first still Pinot Noir.

Also taking place last year, Cornish estate Camel Valley made a number of extensions and improvements to its winery which saw it double its riddling capacity and have space to store up to one million bottles.

The additional acreage puts further pressure on the industry’s already stretched winemaking facilities.

Speaking to the drinks business last year, co-founder of Simpsons Wine Estate Ruth Simpson: “I see a huge opportunity for contract winemakers in this country as the ones that do exist are already full, and there are very few places that people can take grapes”.

Simpsons already collaborates with other wineries in Kent, for example Westerham-based Squerryes, for procedures such as disgorgement, in order for there to be a sufficient volume of wine for specialists to process. Simpson certainly sees this as the way forward for smaller-scale producers in the country.

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