Friday, October 15, 2010

Bride Valley Vineyards: Steven Spurrier's British Sparkling Wine Project

In an earlier post, I wrote about the rise of the British sparkling wine industry and the “Judgement-of-Paris" moment experienced by Nytimber Vineyards when it won first place at the World Sparkling Wine competition over such luminaries as Bollinger, Louis Roederer, and Pommery.  A Wall Street Journal article of May 11, 2010, further highlighted this trend.  Another strong indicator that the British bubbly phenomenon might have legs is the fact that noted Bordeaux wine expert Steven Spurrier has jumped into the production end of the market with a venture called Bride Valley Vineyards.  I spoke to Steven about this initiative during a luncheon at Decanter HQ in the UK and this post relates the crux of that conversation, as well as follow-up communications.

Bride Valley Vineyards is a 75-hectare, bowl-shaped farm located in South Dorset, approximately 40 minutes from Kimmeridge, the village which gives its name to the geologic time period when the chalk soils stretching from Chablis to the south of England was laid down.  There is a lot of chalk on the lower slopes of the vineyard and while research has shown that 22 hectares are viable for vine growing, the estate has decided to concentrate on 10 of those 22 hectares for its wine production.  The vigneron of record for the vineyard is Arabella Spurrier, Steve’s wife. She is assisted by wine consultant Ian Edwards, co-owner and winemaker at nearby Furleigh Estates, a regional sparkling- (primarily) and still-wine producer.
Vines for the plantings were acquired from Papinieres Guillaume, supplier to such formidable names as Bollinger, Roederer, and Pol Roger.  A total of 12,500 vines were planted in 2009 at a density of 4100 vines/acre.  Special care was made to ensure that clones and rootstocks were matched with individually suited parcels.  A total of 1200 vines have been planted so far in 2010 and an additional 6000 will be planted in 2011.  At the completion of the planting program in 2011, five of the ten targeted hectares will be under vine and the distribution will be 50% Chardonnay, 28% Pinot Meunier, and 22% Pinot Noir.
Bride Valley Vineyards will produce two wines: a cuvee (consisting of 40% Chardonnay and the remainder a mix of the two Pinot varietals) and a vintage blanc de blanc.  The grapes will be vinified at Furleigh Estates and it is expected that the first vintage will be in 2011.

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