Hampshire’s Black Chalk has announced the continued expansion of its operations, with the addition of vineyards bringing the total now up to 12 hectares. The vineyards span across four sites; Hide, Rivers, The Levels and The Circle, and all are located within a one-mile radius of the Black Chalk winery.
In addition to the vineyard and ongoing winery expansion, Black Chalk has announced that Zoë Driver has joined the team as Assistant Winemaker. Zoë joins moving on from her former position at Hattingley Valley, where she had previously worked together with Black Chalk CEO & Winemaker Jacob Leadley.
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Black Chalk English Sparkling Wine has entered the next phase of its expansion plans, with the addition of vineyards. 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; it also has the best potential for single vineyard wine and may provide the opportunity to take Black Chalk into still wine territory for the first time. The site is flanked by woodland along one side, which not only offers protection, but will also be home to a new development of boutique, ultra-luxury treehouses operated by Wild Escapes, which is set to open by early summer. The business 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 – from the existing directors, two new backers and an E.U. fund – in September 2019. Since then, the tasting room and shop have opened and the winery build has started, with completion on track for June 2020. Part of the investment was earmarked to expand the work force, and Black Chalk has recently appointed Zoë Driver to the newly created position of Assistant Winemaker.
Driver joins from Hattingley Valley, where she started as an Apprentice Winemaker in 2016, and where she worked alongside Leadley for 2.5 years. Commenting on the appointment, Leadley said: “Zoë is a very talented young winemaker and will be a fantastic addition to the Black Chalk team. We will be working together on existing and new wines and she will also be given free rein to pursue her own passion project at the winery.” Leadley is also currently recruiting for a Vineyard Manager, to complete the team. The role – which will be challenging and exciting – will suit an individual passionate about the potential of English winemaking.
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. We will be looking for stand out clones to produce small batch single vineyard wines that continue to showcase what is possible when quality is put at the top of the list. 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.”