Black Chalk English Sparkling Wine has entered the next phase of its expansion plans, with the addition of vineyards for the first time. The Black Chalk project now comprises four vineyard sites, all within Hampshire’s Test Valley. The sites – Hide, Rivers, The Levels and The Circle – are all within a one-mile radius of the Black Chalk winery and comprise 12 hectares in total. The vineyards are currently planted with Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier, Chardonnay, Pinot Gris and Pinot Précoce. As with the winery and tasting room buildings, the vineyards have been leased on a long-term contract from Fullerton Estate – near Stockbridge in the heart of the Test Valley.
The four sites are considered amongst the best in the country, in terms of aspect, soil, elevation and quality of fruit grown to date. The key site for Black Chalk will be Hide, a 4.6ha vineyard. Its microclimate is perfect for growing Chardonnay and Pinot Noir with potential for great purity; Black Chalk also believe that it has the best potential for single vineyard wine and may provide the opportunity to take Black Chalk into producing still wine for the first time. The site is flanked by woodland along one side, which will be home to a new development of boutique, ultra-luxury treehouses operated by Wild Escapes, which is set to open by early summer. All this sits well with Black Chalk’s intentions to become a stand-alone venue for events in the very near future.
Black Chalk announced a £1.5M investment in September last year– from the existing directors, two new backers and an E.U. fund. Since then, their tasting room and shop have opened and the winery build has started, with completion on track for June this year. Part of the investment is earmarked to expand the work force, and Black Chalk has recently appointed Zoë Driver to the newly created position of Assistant Winemaker, and are currently recruiting for a Vineyard Manager.
Driver joins from Hattingley Valley, where she started as an Apprentice Winemaker in 2016, and where she worked alongside Jacob Leadley, Black Chalk’s Winemaker, for over 2 years.
Commenting on the expansion plans, Leadley said: “we are now the very proud custodians of some of the country’s finest chalkland vineyards. 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. I am delighted that Zoë has joined the team and I look forward to appointing a Vineyard Manager imminently. Both will have the opportunity and freedom to explore their ideas and be creative in their contribution to helping Black Chalk take this important next step. I really feel that we have put down strong roots that will bind this team together.
“The past 12 months have been very busy ensuring we are well placed to continue the Black Chalk adventure, and having the right team is at the centre of this. Now that we have our own vineyards, we can control how our fruit is grown and make decisions based on quality; this is the next logical step for us. 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 launched in 2018 and currently produces two vintage wines; Classic and Wild Rose. Both wines are small batch and made in the traditional method and are a blend of Chardonnay, Pinot Meunier and Pinot Noir. Stylistically, purity of fruit is key, along with structure and a complex, balanced palate. The careful use of oak for a proportion of the wines and time on lees helps to develop this complexity.
The name Black Chalk derives from the material used by the old masters to sketch initial ideas onto canvas before finalising their masterpiece. The idea is reflected in Black Chalk’s wine, where the best locally grown grapes are selected, fastidiously blended and aged before market release.
Black Chalk Wild Rose 2016 – the second vintage of its pink sparkling wine – has been awarded Gold at the 2019 Champagne & Sparkling Wine World Championships (C.S.W.W.C.).
(Photo: L-R Andrew Seden, Zoë Driver, Justin Bache and Jacob Leadley at The Hide Vineyard, Hampshire, one of Black Chalk’s newly-acquired vineyards)