Black Chalk English Sparking Wine has entered the next phase of its expansion plans, with the addition of vineyards.

The Black Chalk project now comprises four vineyard sites, all within Hampshire’s Test Valley. The sites – Hide, Rivers, The Levels and The Circle – are all within a one-mile radius of the Black Chalk winery and comprise 12 hectares in total.

The vineyards are currently planted with Pinot Noir, Pinot Meurnier, Chardonnay, Pinot Gris and Pinot Precoce. As with the winery and tasting room buildings, the vineyards have been leased on a long-term contract from Fullerton Estate, near Stockbridge, in the heart of the Test Valley.

Black Chalk said the key site out of the four will be Hide, a 4.6ha vineyard, which has a microclimate considered to be perfect for growing Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, with potential for great purity. It also has the best potential for single vineyard wine and may help extend the producer into still wine territory for the first time, the company said.

The site is flanked by woodland along one side, which will soon be home to a new development of boutique, ultra-luxury treehouses operated by Wild Escapes.

Black Chalk announced a £1.5 million investment (from the existing directors, two new backers and an EU fund) in September 2019. Since this date the tasting room and shop have opened and the winery rebuild has started, with completion on track for June 2020.

Part of the investment was earmarked to expand the workforce, and consequently Black Chalk has recently appointed Zoe Driver to the newly-created position of assistant winemaker. Driver joins from Hattingley Valley, where she started as an apprentice winemaker in 2016, and where she worked alongside Black Chalk’s owner/ winemaker Jacob Leadley.

He said: “Zoe is a very talented young winemaker and will be a fantastic addition to the Black Chalk team. We will be working together on existing and new wines and she will also be given free rein to pursue her own passion project at the winery.”
Leadley is currently recruiting for a vineyard manager to complete the team.

Commenting on the expansion plans, Leadley said: “We are now the very proud custodians of some of the country’s finest chalkland vineyards. The sites have very individual characteristics, which will be important as we renew our focus not only on the best Hampshire can produce but now the best these sites can produce.

“We will be looking for stand out clones to produce small batch single vineyard wines that continue to showcase what is possible when quality is put at the top of the list. I am delighted that Zoe has joined the team and I look forward to appointing a vineyard manager imminently.

“The past 12 months have been very busy ensuring we are well placed to continue the Black Chalk adventure, and having the right team is at the centre of this. Now that we have our own vineyards, we can control how our fruit is grown and make decisions based on quality; this is the next logical step for us. The focus for the next 12 months will be on sustainable growth across all aspects of the business, from managing our own Hampshire vines, to completing the new winery.”

Black Chalk is distributed by Graft and will be at the forthcoming Vineyards of Hampshire Tasting on February 4 2020, where the second vintage of Black Chalk Classic – 2016 – will be previewed.