California mogul Randall Grahm is searching out new territories – in southern England.
The proprietor of Santa Cruz-based mini-empire Bonny Doon, who peppers his back labels with quotes from James Joyce and Dante, took a helicopter ride over Hampshire last month ‘to scout out vineland’, he told decanter.com.
Grahm was in Britain presenting a vertical tasting – 1984-2004 – of his flagship Rhone blend, Le Cigar Volante, to a select group of journalists and critics at Ransome’s Dock in Battersea, south London.
Bonny Doon has some 30 labels, but only about 10% of its wines are sourced from its own grapes.
Grahm is known to find the winemaker-grower relationship frustrating – mainly because of his predilection for making wines from the more esoteric Italian and French grape varieties, which growers are understandably not keen to plant.
So the sage-like ‘Leader’ of Bonny Doon is actively searching out plantable – and affordable – land, his second-in-command Nicholas Quille said. ‘He saw a couple of spots he liked the look of in England, but nothing concrete. It remains a possibility,’ he said.
Southern England is well-known to have excellent terroir for ripening sparkling wine varietals. Only two degrees north of Champagne, its chalky soils and maritime climate are very similar to that region. There is constant speculation that a major house – Duval Leroy has shown more than passing interest – may soon snap up land there at a fraction of the price of land in Champagne.
The continuing spectre of global warming is also increasing interest in England. Scientists seriously suggest that within a generation it may be possible to ripen red grapes to make quality red wine there.
Award-winning Sussex sparkling wine producer Nyetimber was sold in March this year for £7.5m (€10.9m), an unprecedented sum for an English producer.
Although Hampshire has only a handful of vineyards, its position in the south of England makes it one of the warmer counties.
Written by Adam Lechmere