After securing a £1.5 million investment for a winery and tasting room last year, English sparkling wine producer Black Chalk has leased four vineyards in Hampshire’s Test Valley as it ramps up its expansion plans.
The sites – Hide, Rivers, The Levels and The Circle – are all located within a one-mile radius of the Black Chalk winery and cover a combined total of 12 hectares.
In a similar fashion to its winery and tasting room, Black Chalk has leased the vineyards on a long-term contract from the Fullerton Estate near Stockbridge.
The vineyards are currently planted with Pinot Noir, Meunier, Chardonnay, Pinot Gris and Pinot Précoce. For Black Chalk, its premier site will be Hide, a 4.6ha plot planted with Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, which the producer feels may have the potential to produce single vineyard wine – a first for the winery.
The vineyard is flanked by a development of luxury treehouses, operated by Wild Escapes, which will open in summer this year. This furthers Black Chalk’s ambitions to be an event venue in the future.
Put forward by its existing directors, two new backers and an EU fund, Black Chalk gained its initial £1.5 million investment in September 2019. It has since opened its tasting room and shop, while winery construction is underway, with completion scheduled for June 2020.
Black Chalk has also appointed Zoë Driver to the position of assistant winemaker. Driver, who has spent three years as Hattingley Valley’s apprentice winemaker, will work with Black Chalk CEO and winemaker Jacob Leadley on existing and new wines, and will also be given free rein to pursue her own project at the winery.
Leadley was the winemaker at Hattingley for seven years from 2011, working with Driver during his time at the producer.
Black Chalk’s debut vintage, 2015, was unveiled in 2018, coinciding with Leadley starting to work for the project full time. Black Chalk currently produces two vintage wines, called Classic and Wild Rose, which are blends of Chardonnay, Pinot Meunier and Pinot Noir. They are distributed in the UK via Graft Wines.
Commenting on the lease of the vineyards and new hire, Leadley said: “We are now the very proud custodians of some of the country’s finest chalkland vineyards. The sites have very individual characteristics, which will be important as we renew our focus not only on the best Hampshire can produce but now the best these sites can produce. We will be looking for stand out clones to produce small batch single vineyard wines that continue to showcase what is possible when quality is put at the top of the list.
“I am delighted that Zoë has joined the team and I look forward to appointing a vineyard manager imminently. Both will have the opportunity and freedom to explore their ideas and be creative in their contribution to helping Black Chalk take this important next step. I really feel that we have put down strong roots that will bind this team together.
“The past 12 months have been very busy ensuring we are well placed to continue the Black Chalk adventure, and having the right team is at the centre of this. Now that we have our own vineyards, we can control how our fruit is grown and make decisions based on quality; this is the next logical step for us. The focus for the next 12 months will be on sustainable growth across all aspects of the business, from managing our own Hampshire vines, to completing the new winery.”