To be there at the beginning of the birth of an exciting new English wine producer is really quite a special experience. I visited Charles and Ruth back in May with GBW contributor Robbie Priddle and the Naked Wines team. Three months later we are back, standing in what was previously a very empty (but large) building. Now inside is a fully-fledged winery, packed full of temperature controlled fermentation tanks and a Bucher Vaslin inert grape press standing proudly as the centerpiece.
The rapid pace in which The Simpsons have arrived on the English Wine scene is impressive, as is their infectious passion for what is sure to become an incredibly successful enterprise. With plans for a glass fronted tasting room overlooking the tasting room, as well as a UK first - a helter-skelter to take you from the tasting room to the winery - it's clear that The Simpson's have a thoroughly thought out approach, with a few quirky ideas to make visiting a truly unique experience.
After a very warm welcome and introduction from Charles, followed by a thorough list of thank-you's from Ruth (big thanks for the name check), it was appropriate that Oz Clarke then took over and delivered a particularly emotive speech. Appropriate not just because of his recently awarded title of English Wine Communicator of the Year, but also due to the fact that he grew up just a few miles away from where the winery and vineyards now stand.
From the significance of the pure Kentish chalk to how climate change has created grape growing conditions in England that are now where the Champagne region was 20 years ago, Oz commanded the room. Continuing with the story of how English Wine has evolved since the emergence of Nyetimber in the late 90’s, each anecdote was delivered with passion and aplomb. Summing up the arrival of The Simpsons Wine Estate in Kent, a region emerging as one of the most exciting new wine regions in the world, Oz Clarke had the following to say (Source: English Wine Producers):
““I’ve known these fields for many years. They are seriously chalky, well protected and south facing,
so I have always wondered why people haven’t planted more vineyards in Kent.
It isn’t called the Garden of England for nothing as it has always grown the greatest hops, apples, and pears, and now vines.
We probably have more Champagne soil than here than the Champagne region does.”
He continued. “There’s every chance that in the next generation, the greatest sparkling wines will be made here in Kent.
I welcome Ruth and Charles to the thriving world of English Sparkling wine. We expect great things, and I’m sure you won’t let us down.”
A fantastic afternoon of wine, chat and networking ensued. Such diverse but fascinating characters including Julia Trustram Eve (English Wine Producers), Amelia Singer (Amelia's Wine & The Wine Show), Mike Turnball (PleaseBringMeMyWine) and Helena Nicklin (The Winebird), to name but a few, provided the scintillating conversation about the exciting, emerging and engaging world that is English Wine.
I left buzzing with the excitement of seeing the progress The Simpsons have made with their ambitious English Wine project. With a successful 2016 harvest completed, work in the winery begins to craft Charles and Ruth's first English Wines - the results of which we may see as soon as early next year with a limited release of still Chardonnay.
We say: watch this space with bated breath!
Date Visited: Wednesday 26th October 2016
Location: Barham, Kent