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, which started in Black Chalk’s Hide vineyard on Tuesday, 29th September, will give the English Sparkling Wine producer the potential to increase the breadth of its portfolio, whilst remaining a boutique operation.
This year’s harvest, which took place over 12 days, 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 in the U.K. and international markets, 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 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 latter will be a project over-seen by Black Chalk’s Assistant Winemaker, Zoë Driver.
The 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. The Black Chalk team has invested significantly in equipment and this 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.
Following the arrival of Driver as Assistant Winemaker earlier in the year, the Black Chalk team has expanded further with the appointment of a Vineyard Manager. James Matyear joins from Lympstone Manor where he was responsible for planning, creating and managing their 4.4ha vineyard. Prior to this he was Assistant Vineyard Manager at Hampshire’s Hattingley Valley, where he first met Black Chalk’s Winemaker and CEO, Jacob Leadley.
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.
Black Chalk is distributed by Graft Wine in the U.K.