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Chapel Down establishes England’s largest estate in Kent

Planting has begun at Chapel Down’s 388-acre Boarley Farm site in the North Downs of Kent.

Boarley Farm, together with the Kit’s Coty and Boxley sites, will form a 620 acre estate of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier plantings to make sparkling wine.

Mark Harvey, Chapel Down’s managing director, said the plantings “enable us to really accelerate sales in the years to come. And with wines of great quality too – we know this from the overwhelmingly positive reaction to the Kit’s Coty collection from the same estate.”

The company has also announced their traditional method wines will now all transition to ebony glass, offering better protection in bottle, according to the estate.

Winemaker Josh Donaghay-Spire said the move comes after a five-year study into the impact of UV light on wine.

“We spend a huge amount of energy producing the fruit right in the vineyards and then years to make and mature the wine, so it makes sense to remove any potential risk of this quality being eroded due to glass colour,” he said.

The ebony glass will be phased in gradually as each new vintage is released, and is timed with updated packaging on the core Chapel Down sparklers, which, the winery hopes, will help consumers to navigate across the range from non-vintage to vintage and white to rose.

Chapel Down recently launched two gins and a vodka in the last 18 months, made at base from the grape skins of the previous year’s harvest. One is a pink gin made with Pinot Noir grape distillate, which the company claims is the first gin to be made using the grape variety.

Last year, the Chapel Down Bacchus Gin & Chardonnay Vodka bottle design was the winner of Best Design & Packaging in Spirits at 2018’s Drinks Business Awards.

Harvey said that the UK’s domestic wine industry can learn from the “extraordinary innovation” distilleries and breweries are working on to differentiate their products in a competitive drinks market.

“We are not bound by 350 years of red tape in the wine industry in this country,” he said We should learn from the extraordinary innovation and growth of the spirits and beer industries. So long as we deliver on mouth-wateringly delicious drinks and enhance the premium positioning of the Chapel Down brand then our history of leadership and innovation is set to continue.”

A record 15.6 million bottles were produced in England and Wales in 2018, up from 5.9 million produced in the frost-ravaged 2017 vintage, according to WineGB.

The company’s land will, it said, make it the largest vineyard of any English wine producer, with the potential to produce up to a million bottles of wine a year. If projections prove true, it would mean that Chapel Down could be responsible for 10% of the UK’s entire wine production.

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