Top Champagne house Louis Roederer – maker of Cristal - has been looking round vineyards in Kent and Sussex with a view to producing English sparkling wine in the future.
Frederic Rouzaud, president of Roederer, who acquired Bordeaux property Pichon Lalande in November 2006, is looking to further expand the company’s interests outside Champagne.
Rouzaud and his vineyard director Jean-Baptiste Lecaillon were taken on a tour of new vineyards in Kent and Sussex at the end of September by vineyard consultant Stephen Skelton.
‘They looked at an unplanted site which is for sale, and three existing vineyards, two in Kent and one in West Sussex,’ said Skelton. ‘We discussed things like soils, yields, sugar levels and the different clones that are used here.’
‘We had fantastic visits with some dynamic new growers and very interesting discussions,’ Lecaillon said. ‘We will keep in touch and watch their development over the next two or so years. Maybe in three to five years this will go further in a joint venture.’
The relatively low price of land in England is one obvious attraction. A suitable 50 acre block for planting vines might cost between £8,000-£10,000 per acre, while an acre of vineyard in Champagne would cost around £300,000.
‘Compared with prices in Champagne it’s a gift,’ Skelton said. ‘and there are no planting restrictions in the UK.’
Roederer group president Jean-Claude Rouzaud, father of Frederic, said earlier in the year, ‘the company might consider investment in southern England where the chalk soils are similar to those in Champagne. But we would need to be convinced that global warming and the pattern of climate change is permanent.’
Written by Giles Fallowfield