French-born winemaker Corinne Seely believes she has one of the greatest jobs possible and for her English wine means innovation, freedom, challenges – and the future. 

Corinne Seely’s immense patience and 10 years of trials, on top of a long international career in winemaking has enabled Corinne to build an extensive library of reserve wines at Exton Park in Hampshire to create a unique trio of Reserve Blend sparkling wines, achieving consistency of style regardless of the unpredictable conditions experienced each year.

What does your job involve and what do you love about it?

As Director and Head Winemaker at Exton Park Vineyard I oversee the entire process of creating our wines, from pressing the grapes to composing our reserve blends – I hope I combine art and science to create wines that flourish from our English climate.  

I love having the opportunity to create such a diversity of different wines from our single vineyard, just by blending the reserve wines in a different way. I also love making people happy and cheerful by sharing and enjoying our wines.

How did you become a winemaker?

I am French so I grew up in a family who likes to cook, to eat and to drink. My fascination in the terroir, the soils and what can be extracted from them, played an important part as well. So, the combination of these interests naturally drove me to become a winemaker.

However, it was quite difficult to convince the headmaster at the time because I was a woman in a male-dominant industry and not from a wine region (I am originally from the ‘Hauts de France’). But I was determined so studied hard, was successful and qualified at the Institut of Oenology of Bordeaux.

My winemaking journey started at Chateau Lynch-Bages in Bordeaux before becoming one of the youngest women winemakers at the head of a Grand Cru Classé at Domaine de Chevalier. I then became what is known as a “flying winemaker”, travelling the world making wine for many years before becoming a consultant winemaker. My career as freelance consultant has also taken me around the world, to Australia, the Languedoc and the Douro, before discovering England.

What is great about making wine in England?

I believe in the idea of terroir. I believe that there is always something to find and define.

My winemaking philosophy is to try to minimise any intervention, to let the vineyard speak for itself. Making quality wines in some places can be quite challenging and England has been my best challenge ever. It is not an understatement to say that the English weather can be completely unpredictable and that you can have four seasons in a day. However, making wine in England and especially here at Exton Park is an art and always an innovation.

How do you see the future of wines from England? 

The English Wine industry is relatively new compared to some others, but it is blossoming and being recognised. It is also now moving on from the second phase and entering a third phase where vineyards and winemakers aspire to premium positioning. However, compared to the international competition, English sparkling wines still have everything to develop. These competitors have a longer and more successful trading history. Their initial investments in vineyards and wineries are already paying off, leaving them free to develop market penetration. 

Do you have any tips for women wanting to have a career as a winemaker?

I believe this job to be one of the greatest jobs possible. There are always challenges in any job, particularly when you are a woman in a male dominant industry. So, my advice is to never feel despondent whatever challenges you face, do not be afraid to roll up your sleeves, be open to learn every day, meet people, understanding the secret of the terroir – and be patient.

Any favourite English wines?

English wine for me means innovation, freedom, challenges – and the future. There is good healthy competition between the different vineyards in England, which is rather pleasant. There are plenty of good, and different styles of wine in England. I cannot possibly name one vineyard above another – as they all have their merits.

If you have any spare time what do you like to do?

Travelling to discover and to learn more… let’s hope that we can do this again soon.