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In conversation…Andrew Carter CEO Chapel Down Wines

With 30 years in the global drinks industry, Andrew Carter, was appointed as CEO of UK brand leader Chapel Down Wines in September. With extensive experience across wine, beer and spirits, Andrew has held senior leadership roles at some of the world’s best known drinks companies. Most recently Andrew was Managing Director of Chase Distillery Limited for four years and led the transformational growth. He now has impressive plans for Chapel Downs future.

First introduction to English wine?

I tried my first English wine 21 years ago at the millennium whilst waiting to see if the millennium bug materialised. Over the last decade I have become more of a regular consumer of English wine, and when working in Herefordshire with Chase Distillery I came across Three Choirs and Sixteen Ridges. 

Drinks industry background

As a commercial business leader with 30 years of brand building experience in the drinks industry, I have worked for Treasury Wine Estates, Bacardi, Lion Nathan and Bulmers. I have worked in France and Australia and travelled the world building international drinks brands. I now have a reputation for delivering transformation growth through building high performance teams – and exciting consumers about premium drinks brands.

I actually started my career marketing household products – but hastily left the world of toilet cleaners to market drinks brands, starting with Bulmers in 1995. Drinks brands are about creating memories, they are emotional, and create status and occasion. 

Career highlights so far? 

I am very lucky to have worked on great brands like Penfolds, Wolf Blass, Bacardi, Bombay Sapphire, San Miguel, but my two biggest highlights would be creating the Chase super premium gin brand which a company on the scale of Diageo was prepared to buy, and, secondly setting up and leading the European division of Treasury Wine Estates post its demerger from Fosters, and step changing the growth of Penfolds as a luxury wine brand icon.

What attracted you to the role at Chapel Down? 

Chapel Down is England’s leading winemaker and its mission to change the way the world thinks about English wine forever, strongly resonates with me. It’s not every day you have the opportunity to help build a new wine region in the world.

I am looking forward to the opportunity to create something very special, ‘England’s leading and most celebrated wine company’, and to work with my wine industry counterparts to develop a flourishing English wine region that is a real legacy for future generations.

What is your vision for Chapel Down?

To be the number one and most celebrated English winemaker. We have the opportunity to double our business size over the next five years and beyond this significantly scale the size of our business through organic and non-organic growth.

 In 2020 we sold 1.5m bottles of wine and our sales were £13m and we have 780 acres of land. We have the opportunity to double our business size in the short term and as the English wine market grows from its forecast of 3.5m bottles to 40m bottles over the next two decades, we want to be at the forefront of this growth.

At the moment Chapel Down’s challenge is to be able to meet demand. We will be planting 150 acres over the next 24 months to take the area under vine up to 930 acres.

Challenges ahead

 As the region scales up its production, one of the challenges will be to continue to ensure that we are focussed on producing premium and luxury English wines of the highest quality. As all of the current planted vineyards start to come to full fruition in the coming years there is going to be a lot of grapes – and the industry will need to establish a Champagne region style system by which these grapes can be purchased.

 Although English wine is still essentially in its infancy, as the industry grows, and as category leader, it will be important to collaborate on all levels – from sharing technical knowledge to solving issues such as labour. 

Viticulture or winemaking experience? 

I’m definitely a business leader and not a winemaker. Whilst I have spent time learning about the process from grape to glass, I can leave the winemaking to the professionals, we have an amazing team of talented winemakers producing world-class sparkling and still wines from fruit grown on the chalky terroir in the south east of England by our viticulture team. That said, I love the agricultural aspect to wine and am passionate about the environment and landscape within which we operate.

Favourite English or Welsh wine? (other than Chapel Down!)

There are some amazing English wines out there, I have recently enjoyed both Gusbourne Blanc de Blancs and Rathfinny Classic Cuvée. I’m working my way through the English Pinot Noir’s and my favourite to-date is still Sixteen Ridges.

Spare time?

I’m a big fan of National Hunt horse racing and am involved in a couple of partnerships and I am a director of Henrietta Knight Racing club. I love my cricket and still play – but my reactions behind the stumps are slowing a little from my prime days.

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