Simpsons Wine Estate
Charles and Ruth Simpson started the Simpsons Wine Estate back in 2014, planting their first vineyards with Chardonnay, Pinot Meunier, and Pinot Noir. After owning a successful vineyard and winery in the Languedoc, they had decided they wanted to produce wine from their own home turf. The perfect place for a vineyard was found, nestled in Elham Valley in the North Downs of Kent, which is located in an 'Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty'. Charles and Ruth both believe that the world of English wine has a lot more to offer. English wine currently accounts for jus 1% of the still wine market. The Simpsons want to increase the quality of English wine and give it a more widely known reputation. To achieve this, they needed the perfect vines and the perfect terroir. This is where they found their perfect microclimate in the North Downs of Kent.
They had managed to find the perfect microclimate, which was ideal for the vine varieties that they were intending to produce. Kent is one of the sunniest places in the UK and on their south facing slopes the vines were guaranteed to get the appropriate amount of warmth and sunlight. The vineyards are approximately eight miles away from the sea which creates a maritime climate and prevents frost from affecting the vines. Potentially one of the most significant parts of the vineyard is the soil. The area is part of the same chalk ridge that Champagne and Burgundy sit upon. The soil is rich in limeston which helps the grapes show pure fruit notes over a mineral base. The soil is also significant for water drainage, making sure that the grapes don't retain too much water and ensuring concentration of flavour.
Simpsons Wine Estate contains two named vineyards within the Elham Valley. Their first vineyard was the Roman Road, which is named due to it being situated next to the road that the Romans first marched along in 43AD. In this vineyard Chardonnay, Pinot Meunier, and Pinot Noir are grown. This vineyard is best known for their Roman Road Chardonnay, which shows pure fruit and minerality due to the chalk soils. Another vineyard they own is Railroad Hill Valley. This is so called because the Canterbury to Folkestone light railway passed through the site in the late 19th and first half of the 20th Century. The vineyard is situated on the opposite slopes of the valley from the Roman Road vineyard. The same three grape varieties are found here, and 20 acres were planted over 2016 and 2017.
As we head into the winery, we don't have to travel very far, as it is within walking distance of the vineyards. The Simpsons believe that the quality of wine depends on this and it is crucial that there is minimal transportation and manipulation between the berries leaving the vines and reaching the press to help preserve and protect the purity of the flavours. When it comes to wine making, the Simpsons use a blend of traditional wine making methods with modern technology. As they started to create their own style of wine, they had a custom winery made. This made sure that they had all the right equipment to produce balanced and detailed wine which shows 'pure fruit'. While using the well known traditional methods which have been producing outstanding wine for many years, the modern equipment provides precise control and close attention to detail. For their sparkling wine they use 'méthode traditionnelle', which is the same method used for champagne. As the grapes are grown in similar soil to champagne by using similar methods, they can produce a wine of similar quality and style.
Simpsons Wine Estate now produces three sparkling wines and five still wines, all of which have been recognized continuously as outstanding examples of English wine. They been featured in many articles and television programs as the scene of English wine is growing, for example they were mentioned as one of the top 10 sparkling wines on BBC Good Food. Notably they won a gold medal at the champagne and sparkling wine world champions which put them on the map. However, their mission still holds, making English still wine more available and more internationally known.