31st august 2017
Hattingley Valley is in a quite ‘out-of-the-way’ spot in deepest, darkest Hampshire. Near to Alresford, the vineyard is accessible only by car and through some beautiful winding country roads. Quintessentially English, it’s only a few miles from Jane Austen’s house and one could, very easily, picture the Bennett girls having a wander across the landscape. I visited Hattingley on a gloriously sunny summer’s day and that absolutely added to the romance!
Hattingley has been in use as a vineyard since 2010. Simon Robinson, current owner, retired from his legal career in 2007 and started on his dream to make his own wine. He planted 11 hectares of grapes on some land which he already owned and started to make his dream a reality.
Now, I know many people are confused about our ability to make wine here in England but, believe me, we have some very good conditions for grape growing! Soil types, aspects and climate change are all working in our favour. Hattingley is 190m above sea level which, coupled with some good airflow, is high enough to avoid a lot of the springtime frosts which are a major problem elsewhere in the cooler climates (Northern France, Germany). Perhaps even more surprisingly for an English vineyard, Hattingley were the first in the UK to adopt solar power where possible. Not content with making wine from the soil, they want to do it by using more energy from the sun (see, I told you it was romantic!)
They grow all the classic Champagne grape varieties here: Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier as well as some Pinot Gris and Pinot Precose. They also produce a dessert wine from late harvest Bacchus. Continuing the romance theme, all grapes are hand harvested around the first week of October and the Sparkling Wines are all made in the Traditional Method (the same process as Champagne).
The first ever harvest was in 2010 and, back then, Hattingley had nine tanks. The 2017 harvest will see 82 tanks in use and will reach full capacity. As well as making their own wine, Hattingley make wine for other people: they currently have 16 clients on the books and 104 different wines in the warehouse. The only thing that don’t do themselves is their bottling. A French company come on over for a week each year, park up their truck in the front yard and bottle everything they can in a week-long bottling frenzy before packing up and heading back to France.
It’s been a relatively short journey for Hattingley but, in just seven years, it’s gone from being a retirement dream to a whole new journey for owner Simon Robinson and something tells me they’ve only just started!
I tasted a number of the wines at Hattingley – here are just some very quick notes that I took of my favourites:
- Brut Classic Cuvee 2013: 50% Chardonnay, 30% Pinot Noir, 18% Pinot Meunier and 2% Pinot Gris: very ‘English style’. Granny smith apple notes couples well with the high acidity. Subtle toasty notes and a medium finish.
- Sparkling Rose 2014: An amazing year for English Pinot grapes. This is a blend of Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier and 5% Precose. Each of the grape varieties are macerated for a week. About 8% was barrel fermented and then the wine spent at least two years ageing on the lees. An incredibly pale rose with smoky red fruits on the nose and very light strawberry and raspberry flavours on the palate. A wonderfully fine mousse. Very easy drinking.
- Blanc de Blanc 2010: 10% barrel fermented, four years on the lees and one more year ageing after disgorgement. Punchy Braeburn apple flavour on the palate, a hint of oak with a round mouth feel.