Wine in the UK is booming. Ok, ok, so albeit from a small base, but in the worrying outlook for the next few years for most of the country as the politicians negociate with a rather pissed off Europe, the wine industry is one place where we can look proudly. It was with this in mind that I gratefully accepted an invitation to go check out a new winery opening up in the far South East of Kent.
Start of a Journey
Simpsons Winery is at the start of its journey. They haven’t actually made any wine there yet. There was a bit of a weird moment when you’re walking round the sparkling new tanks and presses and all those gizmos, toasting the new venture with wine from France. But it’s the success of Ruth and Charles Simpson in the Pay D’Oc that gave them the confidence to have a go over in Kent.
Oz Clarke Waxing Lyrical
There’s been plenty of backers behind the scheme. Naked Wines for one have huge involvement, raising money through their “angels” to help get it off the ground. And in the press too, they’re not short of friends. The opening was kicked off by an empassioned speech by Oz Clarke. He’s effectively the UK’s number one wine talker, mad as a box of frogs in a very good way, and someone who just oozes enthusiasm for English wine. It wasn’t a toughy for him to get behind Simpson’s as he only grew up a mile down the road!
The main theme behind the speech was about why Kent is the perfect place to be right now. It’s all part of the same Paris basin as Champagne, so the chalk soils (white cliffs of Dover anyone?!) are absolutely perfect for the grapes to grow on. The climate is incredible, as the land seems to jut out from any cloud cover making the rest of England grey and miserable. It’s no wonder that Champagne houses are buying up the land round there, just waiting for France to get too hot to grow the grapes anymore.
With the increasing success of Chapel Down and Gusbourne, it really is now up to the second wave of wineries (like Simpsons) to keep to those standards and catch up in the PR battle with Sussex and Hampshire. A battle with only one winner…the drinkers!!