Hambledon ‘better than most NV Champagne’

The owner of Hambledon Vineyard in Hampshire has priced his top drop high at £42.50 but believes that it is “better than most non-vintage Champagnes”.

Hambledon's chief winemaker Hervé Jestin (left) with owner Ian Kellett

Hambledon’s chief winemaker Hervé Jestin (left) with owner Ian Kellett

Speaking to the drinks business during a recent visit to the estate, owner Ian Kellett revealed: “Our Classic Cuvée is £28.50 and our Première Cuvée is ambitiously priced at £42.50, but I believe it’s better than most non-vintage Champagnes.

“The defining characteristic of how good a sparkling wine you can make is with clear, fine, well-settled juice. Natural yeast is a load of rubbish, as it selects itself in the tank anyway.”

Hambledon

Hambledon Première Cuvée, priced at £42.50 a pop

Going against the grain of other English sparkling wine producers, Kellett has decided to make non vintage fizz the focus at Hambledon.

“We only make non vintage as I believe that it’s by far the better product. There’s no such thing as vintage, as even in a vintage Champagne you’re allowed up to 15% non-vintage wine,” he said.

However, there are plans to release a Hambledon vintage within the next decade.

Chief winemaker Hervé Jestin, Duval-Leroy’s chef de caves for over 20 years, is currently holding back 30% of the wine he makes each year as reserve wine.

In addition to Jestin, Kellett has also employed Antoine Arnualt as a winemaker, who comes by way of Louis Roederer and Pannier in Champagne.

“I deliberately sought out a winemaking team from Champagne. I went to Pol Roger and the de Billy family put me in touch with Hervé,” Kellett told db.

Around 10% of the Classic and Première Cuvée blend is aged in second, third and fourth use French oak as Kellett is keen for the oak not to overpower the wine.

Speaking of the differences between making sparkling wine in Champagne and England, Jestin told db: “It’s very different making English sparkling wine to Champagne – you have to adapt to your surroundings.

“I’m not trying to make Champagne, I’m trying to make the best sparkling wine from this land. Every region has its own soil and I’m trying to transform its potential into a great wine. Champagne and English sparkling wine aren’t so different in the end but the way to reach that point is different.”

Founded in 1952, Hambledon is England’s oldest running vineyard. It currently boasts 100,000 vines across 30 hectares with land for a further 100,000 vines.

Kelley recently invested £2m in a gravity fed winery, which he believes leads with wines with “better mouthfeel” and “less electrical influence”.

5 Responses to “Hambledon ‘better than most NV Champagne’”

  1. Paul says:

    I was lucky enough to visit Hambledon this year and meet Antoine Arnualt and tour the winery. The team were very welcoming and friendly and the wines are excellent. I had a bottle of the Première Cuvée when I moved into my new house and will be opening another on Christmas morning. The wines are stunning and all the best to the team at Hambledon for the future.

  2. Jiles says:

    Not very surprising really – Pricing above NV champagne is the only strategy that makes commercial sense for English sparkling wine: below NV champagne and you’re bottom fishing which is not profitable unless you have huge volume; at the same price as champagne then it’s champagne that will have an advantage for the foreseeable future due to the long established name and why take on the competition head on when there’s a better option which is to be priced above champagne. If the quality is good, and with the team Mr. Kellett has assembled it should be, there will be plenty of customers.

  3. John Brownsdon MW says:

    Pushing it a bit. There are plenty of excellent Champagnes around at around £20 a bottle so why ask more than double?

  4. Karen Netting says:

    Not sure this article makes sense. They aren’t trying to make champagne, yet have employed former chef des caves from top champagne houses. They don’t believe in vintages, but will be producing one in the next decade…and making Champagne is different to making English Sparkling as with the latter you have to adapt to your surroundings. Isn’t that also what they have to do in Champagne? I do think the wines are nice, but not £42 nice…we have tasted many exceptional NV champagnes at around the 15 euro mark, which have a far greater depth.

  5. Kevin McKee says:

    Vintage Champagne does indeed have to be 100% from the year declared, it is against the law to add any other years wines.

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