The Duchess of Cornwall officially opened the new £2.5m all gravity-fed state-of-the-art winery at Hambledon Vineyard in Hampshire this week.
In her capacity as president of the United Kingdom Vineyards Association (UKVA), the Duchess unveiled a commemorative plaque and toasted the opening with a glass of Hambledon’s vintage sparkling wine, Mill Down 2010.
The Duchess, whose father Major Bruce Shand was a vintner, also took a tour of the winery with owner Ian Kellett before meeting Hambledon’s winemakers Herve Jestin and Antoine Arnault for a tasting of base wines that will go into the new Hambledon non-vintage prestige cuvee to be launched in 2015.
Speaking at the opening reception, Camilla said: ‘My family have been involved in some way or another with wine for a very very long time. They’ve written about it, they’ve sold it, they’ve drunk it, so it’s like landing the perfect job here.’
Owner Ian Kellett commented: ‘We are honoured that Her Royal Highness was able to join us to mark this occasion. The new winery represents a significant investment for us and a crucial part of our drive to produce the best sparkling wines in the UK.’
Kellet, a former equity analyst bought the estate, located on the South Downs in Hampshire, in 1999.
He subsequently studied oenology at Plumpton College in Sussex, and over the last 10 years has undertaken a process of major redevelopment and between £7-10million investment to include the planting of 50,000 acres of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier and installing the UK’s first gravity-fed winery.
In 2011, Kellett appointed one of Champagne’s most renowned biodynamic chef de caves, Herve Jestin, to direct the winemaking of Hambledon’s two different cuvees, a vintage wine (the estate’s second label) called Mill Down named after the house, and Hambledon, a non-vintage cuvee which will be the main wine.
A limited release of only 2,500 bottles of Mill Down 2010 are currently available from Hambledon’s cellar door as well as selected local retailers for £21.99.
Mill Down 2011 will be launched more widely in early 2014 with the main Hambledon cuvee entering the market late 2014 or early 2015.
Future plans for the estate will include increased acreage and a focus on export markets around the world.
Speaking to Decanter.com, Kellett said: ‘Our plan is to become 200 acres in the future. We do have a land search going on for that process, but we’ve slowed down that search due to 2012.
‘We’ll just wait until we get the 2013 harvest under our belt and really it’s all about the flowering – it’s not as simple as that, but 70% of the job done is if you get a decent flowering.
‘With the weather this week and hopefully next week we should get a good flowering and that should mean a good 2013 harvest which will restore confidence.
‘I think they’ll be half a dozen or 10 producers between ½ million or a million bottles a year 10-years from now, exporting high quality sparkling wine around the world and like champagne has its 20 international mark I think we’ll have 10 of our own.’.
‘Over the next 10—15 years we’ll expend two-thirds of our volume to be exported, to China, a lesser extent India and Japan, and one-third for the UK market’.
Written by Georgina Hindle