17 September 2016

A day trip to Hambledon Vineyard

I first met Ian Kellet from Hambledon Vineyard at a Naked Wines tasting event. My husband and I enjoyed several glasses with him and bent his ear about English Sparkling wine. So this summer we thought we'd pay the vineyard a visit since it is only down the road from where we live.
Beautiful vineyard in rolling
Hampshire countryside

We contacted them via their website and discovered they had a range of wine and food events as well as a vineyard tour which is what we opted for. 

Despite it being a fairly dark and dank day when we visited the vineyard, the Hambledon estate is absolutely stunning. Long rows of vines stretching seemingly endlessly down across virtually unspoiled countryside views. Who knew we had such beautiful wine country here in England?
Bottles fermenting

Arriving late (as usual) we missed the start of the tour. But I guess there was about 15 people on the tour. My husband laughed when he saw everyone and said "Typical English people, getting dressed up to the nines to walk round what is essentially a farm in the rain". Too true.

Felix conducting the tour
Winemaker, Felix, conducted the tour. He clearly had a passion for winemaking and the production methods at Hambledon. Interestingly, despite this being an English vineyard, nearly all the machinery and many of the wine makers are French. It seems that, English wine production is still relatively speaking in its infancy. 

But it's led by Ian who is a Yorkshire man and all of the marketing team we met were English. So I guess there's a balance. 

Tasting some of the
good stuff
I'd never been on a Sparkling wine vineyard tour, so most of the production method was new to me. Especially as nearly everything they do at Hambledon is by hand. To make a sparkling wine, apparently there is a second fermentation in the bottle, with every single one of the bottles being stored at an angle and turned by hand every day (riddling). Labour intensive stuff and evidence of the care and love they put into the production.

They planned to start harvesting the grapes the second week in October which is apparently a month after France. But with the warmer weather in England this is a really exciting time for English wine production. And all the team seem really excited about what the future holds. 

Finally, we got to try some of the good stuff. Sadly, we only got to try one glass and none of the Hambledon wines. But I guess English Sparkling wines is pricey stuff and there were quite a few of us on the tour that day. Ian has subsequently told me that it's not really viable to open too many bottles. And perhaps doing wine flights and charging slightly more will be something they will consider in the future. 

We actually tried a glass of Meonhill Grande Reserve which was absolutely delicious. 50% Pinot Noir and 50% Chardonnay, with tiny bubbles and a really crisp, fresh and sherberty. This wine was grown on an estate that Ian and the team recently purchased and apparently is the English Sparkling wine that Virgin Airways has chosen to serve in upper class.

They have a number of wine events between now and Christmas. Including the chance to make your own Sparkling wine for Christmas. 

A lovely vineyard to visit and the wine we tried was absolutely exquisite. Very much looking forward to trying the wines we bought on the day!

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