Success for the English Wine Industry
I spoke to Tom, one of the managers at Sharpham Wine (sharpham.com), a boutique vineyard and winery based in the South West of England, embedded in the valley of the River Dart. He gave me a tour of their oldest vineyard at Sharpham Estate, and as we walked amongst the 40+-year-old vines, he spoke in more detail about working in the English wine industry.
So, tell me a bit about Sharpham Wines
We’re one of the most established vineyards in England, producing on average 60,000 bottles, although that varies a lot depending on the climate. Having said that, we really embrace the fact that the wines change year on year, and we see each batch as an expression of the year just gone.
What drew you to working in the wine industry here in England?
I’m originally from Devon, and spent time working abroad as a sommelier in Australia and France. When I came back, I was introduced to Sharpham wine and was really impressed. That was six years ago and I’ve been working here ever since.
How do you think English wine compares to wine from warmer countries?
Because the climate here is cooler than most other countries which produce wines, you tend to get a leaner, fresher wine. English wine tends to be lower in alcohol, and more delicate in flavour.
Why is England a good place to make wine?
Recently (as temperatures continue to increase) English vineyards have started to be able to produce grapes varieties that in the past people would never have even tried to grow – we’ve even started seeing English sparkling wines beating Champagne for awards, and we’ve noticed that growers from France have started buying vineyards here and producing wine here too! So there’s a lot of scope for producing a variety of different wines here nowadays.
Gosh, so climate change is having a real effect on the wine industry?
In a sense, yes. Here at Sharpham, we’re very aware that if we’re going to be “benefiting” from climate change, we’ve got to give back too. We’re doing everything we can to soften our approach.
It sounds like an exciting time to be working here. Have you got plans to expand?
Yes! In fact, this is our last year at Sharpham Estate. We’ll soon be relocating and expanding to a vineyard just a few kilometers away. We have plans for the new site to become carbon neutral using solar power, a biodigester, planting wildflower meadows, and using more natural fermentation processes which use naturally occurring yeasts in the environment here. We’re taking steps to become increasingly organic and biodynamic, too. We’re really excited, as it’ll give us more room to build and experiment with new, state-of-the-art equipment.
Amazing! One last question – which is your favourite wine from the Sharpham collection?
My favourite is probably the Estate Selection, which is made using 100% Madeline Angevine. It’s quite an unknown grape variety, and I think this wine is a great expression of the fruit.