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Hambledon to almost double production in 2016

The Hampshire sparkling wine producer Hambledon is aiming to almost double output this year, from 120,000 bottles to 200,000 bottles, winemaker Antoine Arnault says.

The south-facing chalk slopes of Hambledon vineyard are perfect for the production of sparkling wine made with Chardonnay grapes, winemaker Antoine Arnauld says (Photo: Hambledon)

Speaking at the inaugural Vineyards of Hampshire group press and trade tasting at Villandry Grand Cafe in London’s St James’s on February 1, Arnauld said that it was important for the winery to now focus on increasing awareness of Hambledon as a “luxury” brand in order to sustain its growth.

Hambledon aims to reach a production level of around one million bottles within the next decade, he said.

“We’ve reached about 120,000 bottles now. I think we are looking at 200,000 and within 10 years about a million,” Arnauld confirmed.

“Our aim is to have a production which is fairly substantial but not too much so that we lose control of it. So we want to be able to take as much time focusing on the quality of the wine even if it is up to a million.”

Arnauld explained that having reached a quality level that allowed it to compete with some of the best wines in Champagne, the next goal for Hambledon was to increase awareness of the brand.

“What we have done so far is to try to really focus on the quality of the product,” the winemaker explained.

“We have the winery which is the only gravity-fed winery in the UK, so we’ve got a really good system initially in place to allow us to really guard the quality.

“We are really trying to find our own style and be a very upmarket product to be able to compete with top sparkling wine like Champagne.

“The next stage is really to improve the awareness of the brand itself – knowing that it’s English wine, but also that it’s the Hambledon brand.

“Most people know Krug as ‘Krug’, not ‘Champagne’; some people might not even know it is Champagne.

“Our aim is to really build up the prestige of the brand and make it like a premium luxury product of England.

“I’m not saying the Champagne guys have got the easy way, but they have got the name behind it, so they have something that supports them already. In our case there’s nothing. English wine is just at its blooming.”

Arnauld’s comments come at an exciting time for Hambledon, whose brand ambitions will be helped by such high-profile competition triumphs as last October’s Noble Rot tasting.

Hambledon, which planted its first vines in 2005, aims to reach a production level of one million bottles in the next decade (Photo: Hambledon)

As reported in the drinks business, Hambledon finished first in the blind tasting competition, which pitted English sparkling wines against Champagnes such as Pol Roger, Taittinger and Veuve Clicquot. Judges at the tasting included Jancis Robinson MW, Neal Martin and Jamie Goode.

The inaugural Vineyards of Hampshire press and trade tasting brought together seven Hampshire wineries to promote the region’s potential to lead the charge of English sparkling wine internationally.

The group seeks to emphasise the potential of its chalk soils, which are the same as found in Avize and Cramant in Champagne, and are ideal for the production of Chardonnay grapes, the group says.

Hambledon was presenting its wines at the tasting alongside representatives from Cottonworth, Danebury, Exton Park, Hattingley Valley, Jenkyn Place and Meonhill.

“In our case we’ve got all the perfect conditions of [Champagne grape] growing,” Arnauld said. “We’ve got the pure chalk, we’ve got the south-eastern orientation, we’ve got the slope, the drainage, so we really have the special terroir that allows us to express the best of Chardonnay for instance, and of Pinot Noir.

“I don’t think many other [English] vineyards can boast such different parameter altogether in the same pace and I think that’s what makes us special and what makes Hambledon such a great wine.

“Our focus is also on ageing really well. That’s the peculiarity of our wine, I think. It’s got 40 months on lees and for me the quality is still going up.”

In September 2015 there were 470 vineyards and 135 wineries in the UK producing an average of 3.15 million bottles of wine a year, according to the Wine and Spirits Trade Association (WSTA).

The WSTA predicted that the English wine industry was set to double production over the next seven years.

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