Hampshire producer Black Chalk has celebrated its first harvest since acquiring 12 hectares of Test Valley vineyards earlier this year and completing the build of its winery in mid-September. The 2020 harvest started on Tuesday, 29th September.
The harvest took place over 12 days and is set to be three times the volume of 2015 – the first vintage for Black Chalk. A proportion of grapes has been allocated to increase production of Black Chalk’s “Classic” and “Wild Rose”, to meet increased demand both here and overseas, as well as a to-be-launched vintage Blanc de Blancs. Other grapes will be ear-marked for Black Chalk’s first still wines: a Pinot Noir Rosé which will be released in early 2021 and also a Chardonnay.
The highest quality has come from one of their sites, Hide, a 4.6ha vineyard, which has a perfect microclimate for growing Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. A proportion of these grapes will be destined for two new wines: a single vineyard Blanc de Blancs and a Blanc de Noirs.
The new winery has taken some eight months to complete. The build was paused when Lockdown was introduced but resumed in late spring, finishing just days before harvest started. Significantly investment has been made in the winery equipment which includes a Coquard press and a selection of fermenting and maturation vessels, including small tanks, French oak barriques and Qvevri. The diversity of winemaking equipment is in line with Black Chalk’s vision to establish a creative space for collaborations with individuals wanting to make wine but lacking the facilities and know-how.
Commenting on the harvest, Leadley said: “2020 has been a real rollercoaster of a year for Black Chalk. Like everyone, we were impacted by Covid-19 and Lockdown, but the highs have been significant and it has been a landmark year for us. We now have the core team in place and our winery is complete – in the nick of time for harvest! Growing conditions for the 2020 season have been near perfect, and all the signs are that 2020 has the potential to be an excellent vintage. One of the significant things we have done is to separate the clones; the quality and distinct characteristics between these in tank is quite extraordinary and gives us some really high-quality blending components. The sugar and acid levels are as good as I’ve ever seen in the U.K. and from what we have seen so far, the early fermentations in tanks are looking very promising.”