Having secured a £1.5m investment from the existing directors, two new backers and an EU fund in September 2019, English sparkling wine producer Black Chalk has entered the next phase of its expansion plans.
Four Hampshire vineyards have now officially been taken on under the Black Chalk project. As with the winery and tasting room buildings, these have been leased on a long-term contract from Fullerton Estate, near Stockbridge in the heart of the Test Valley.
All located within a one-mile radius of the Black Chalk winery, the sites known as Hide, Rivers, The Levels and The Circle comprise 12 hectares in total. The vineyards are currently planted with Pinot noir, Pinot meunier, Chardonnay, Pinot gris and Pinot noir précoce.
The key site for Black Chalk will be Hide, a 4.6ha vineyard. Its microclimate has been deemed perfect for growing Chardonnay and Pinot noir with potential for great purity. The team believe it has the best potential for single vineyard wine and may provide the opportunity to take Black Chalk into still wine territory for the first time.
“We are now the very proud custodians of some of the country’s finest chalkland vineyards,” said Black Chalk’s co-founder and head winemaker Jacob Leadley. “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.”
The site is flanked by woodland along one side, which not only offers protection, but will also be home to a new development of boutique, ultra-luxury treehouses operated by Wild Escapes, which is set to open by early summer 2020. This business sits well with Black Chalk’s intentions to become a stand-alone venue for events in the very near future.
Since September, the tasting room and shop have opened and the winery build has started, with completion on track for June 2020. Part of the investment was earmarked to expand the work force, and Black Chalk has recently appointed Zoë Driver to the newly created position of assistant winemaker. She joins from Hattingley Valley, where she started as an apprentice winemaker in 2016 and worked alongside Jacob Leadley for 2.5 years.
“Zoë is a very talented young winemaker and will be a fantastic addition to the Black Chalk team,” said Jacob. “We will be working together on existing and new wines and she will also be given free rein to pursue her own passion projects at the winery.”
To complete the team, Black Chalk is currently recruiting for a vineyard manager. The role, which will be challenging and exciting, will suit an individual passionate about the potential of English winemaking.
“I really feel that we have put down strong roots that will bind the team together and now that we have our own vineyards, we can control how our fruit is grown and make decisions based on quality,” said Jacob. “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.”
Black Chalk is distributed by Graft and will be at the forthcoming Vineyards of Hampshire tasting at 67 Pall Mall, London, on 4 February 2020, where the second vintage of Black Chalk Classic, 2016, will be previewed.