The first ‘life-changing’ vines were planted in 2004, by Jonica and Gerard Fox, with the philosophy to simply make the most delicious wines – to make every glass poured joyous. Fortunately, they already had a portfolio of skills which have been invaluable in developing their thriving boutique business
Fox & Fox – but have also found themselves mastering skills they had never even heard of! Vineyard speaks to Jonica Fox.
Planting the vineyard
It was Gerard’s bright idea to plant vines, in 2004, and it was life changing for both of us. We were one of the earlier of the “English wine renaissance” vineyards. That first 1.5 hectares took us straight into the top 30 vineyards by size at that time. It is incredible how far the industry has come in less than two decades. We added Lakestreet Vineyard, of 10 hectares, in 2010, which we sold last year. We’ve just done our final plantings, increasing the Chardonnay and doubling the amount of Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier we grow.
We grow the classic grapes, Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier, Pinot Gris and Chardonnay – a mix of Dijon and Champagne clones selected for flavour and quality. All of our vintages to 2019 are estate grown grapes only, from 2020 onwards we have been buying in grapes from selected Growers to add to our own grapes.
Gerard was originally a city slicker, and I had an advertising and marketing background, giving us an invaluable range of skills. Gerard has recently completed his post-graduate degree in Energy and Environmental Economics and is also Chairman of the East Sussex Pension Fund trustees. I went to Plumpton College to study Viticulture & Oenology, which was brilliant – I learned so much. Since then, we have both expanded our skills through experience and learning as much as we can. My year group at Plumpton were the first to be able to do the BSc and it was one of the best things I have ever done.
We value being a boutique producer, it allows us to be creative and innovative whilst focussing on quality. We only make sparkling wines; it’s how we’ve built our reputation and it’s what we do well.
We sell our wines nationally through our brilliant local wine merchants, our partnership with our distributor, a limited number of excellent online merchants and from our online shop. We are now building back our exports having been hard hit last year by the perfect storm of Covid-19 and Brexit.
We are committed to our core cuvées and are continuing to push the boundaries with some enticing vintages and some scintillating limited-edition wines to come!
I am excited to see and taste some brilliant table wines from English vineyards as well as wonderful sparkling wines. That feels like a coming of age to me. I hope the industry will continue to innovate on all fronts, especially product and packaging. I think we need, as an industry, to continue to improve our distribution capacities.
Jonica’s words of wisdom
If you are setting up a vineyard business be prepared for it to take over your lives! If you are running a business yourself, you will find yourself mastering skills you have never heard of and turning your hand to everything. You need to be in it for the long haul, it takes time to build a business, longer to build a brand – and an age to turn a profit!
Favourite wine – other than your own!
The last English wine we drank was a very pretty Pinot Gris fizz from Yorkshire vineyard Dunesford – their Pinot Gris 2018. It’s a different style from our Pinot Gris, the Inspiration Brut 2014, but beautifully light and airy – and it slipped down too easily!
Any spare time?
We both love being outdoors, summer BBQ’s, enjoying wines, entertaining and exploring the UK if we have time. Every now and again I take a day off to sleep!