Top chef Michael Caines MBE is to plant 18,000 vines at his country house hotel, Lympstone Manor in East Devon.
The four hectare south-facing site on the Exe Estuary will be planted to the classic Champagne grape varieties – Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier – with the focus on producing up to 25,000 bottles of top-end sparkling wine. Though the team hasn’t ruled out the possibility of making some still wine as well further down the line.
There are no plans for a winery on site, and the wines being made by a local winery and aged in its cellars. Discussions on a suitable partner are ‘ongoing’.
Vineyards are being overseen by James Matyear, a Plumpton College graduate, who has joined the team from quality English fizz producer Hattingley Valley in Hampshire. Plans are already afoot for a three day ‘festival of vine planting’ at the end of April, which will include a three-night stay and a tour of the vineyard.
While the microclimate of Devon is described by Matyear as being similar to Kent and Sussex, the soils have a bedrock of sandstone rather than chalk.
‘The geology is very different,’ he told Imbibe. ‘It’s a clay loam that sits on Exmouth mudstone and sandstone, formed 250 million years ago.’
Imbibe readers will have to wait a further six years to find out how this affects the taste of the wines; the first bottles are slated to hit the market in 2024.
English sparklers were one of the best-received categories in this year's Sommelier Wine Awards judging. Read about the SWA judges' thoughts here.