Owned and operated by Ruth and Charles Simpson, this English wine estate was established in 2012 and officially opened its doors in 2016. Ruth and Charles have a long and successful history in the wine industry. For 17 years, their Languedoc estate, Domaine Sainte Rose, has crafted award-winning wines from that region’s warm, sunny climes. Their British roots brought them back to the southern slopes of England to fulfill the enormous potential of the region for making elegant, cool-climate wines, both still and sparkling. Their two vineyards are located in a designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, overlooking the gently-undulating English countryside. This one of the sunniest corners of Great Britain. The region’s lime-rich, chalky soils and moderate climate are similar to that of Champagne and Burgundy, making grape selection an easy choice; Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier dominate plantings. The long, cool ripening period here means that the best wines exhibit pure varietal flavours along with elegant acidity and a complex character. These vineyards are planted almost exclusively on south-facing slopes, ensuring that grapes reach full phenolic and sugar ripeness each year and are protected from the area’s fierce winds and spring frost.
Elham Valley is an unspoilt seam in the North Downs of the County of Kent, where the contours of the land, the climate and the soil could scarcely be improved upon for viticulture. The intensely lime-rich chalk soil forms part of the same chalk ridge that stretches from southern England to the French Champagne region and on to Burgundy. The English climate may be marginal for viticulture but its relative austerity—where expertly handled—and long, cool ripening period is ideally suited to creating still and sparkling wines with pure variety flavours, elegant acidity and subtly sophisticated aromas.
Simpsons Wine Estate is located in one of the sunniest corners of the British Isles. Proprietors Charles and Ruth have further safeguarded their vines against extremes in climate by selecting sloping vineyards that face almost due south, ensuring heat accumulation in the day, and excellent cold air drainage at night. The maritime influence is also crucial to the success of these vines. The property is less than eight miles from the coast on three sides, which helps insulate the fruit against intense variations in temperature. Roman Road Vineyard was the original Estate Vineyard, so named for the road the Romans marched upon in their first invasion of England in 43 AD, bringing along vines with them. Railway Hill was planted in 2016 for another 20 hectares of south facing vineyards, again in chalk soil.
Chardonnay is the world’s most famous white-wine grape and also one of the most widely-planted, with the most highly-regarded expressions of the variety coming from Burgundy and California. Climate plays a major role in dictating which fruit flavours a Chardonnay will have. Broadly speaking, warm regions such as California tend to give more tropical styles. While many Chardonnays have high aromatic complexity, this is usually due to winemaking techniques (particularly the use of oak) rather than the variety’s intrinsic qualities. Malolactic fermentation gives distinctive buttery aromas. Fermentation and/or maturation in oak barrels contributes notes of vanilla, smoke and hints of sweet spices such as clove and cinnamon. Extended lees contact while in barrel imparts biscuity, doughy flavours.
Hand-harvested from both vineyards, it was pressed gently into tank, where the juice was cold settled for a couple of days before being inoculated with selected yeasts. A portion of the wine was allowed to undergo malolactic fermentation, with the entirety being allowed to age gracefully on the fine lees for 20 months before bottling.
Classic unoaked Chard notes of apple, pear and stone fruits on the nose, along with a hint of more tropical elements. The palate has more of the stone fruits, particularly nectarine and apricot, along with some more steely elements and a touch of citrus. There is nervy acidity, but it isn’t thin or linear. Do not over chill, you don’t want to mute the fruit. Enjoy with roast chicken, grilled swordfish or sip as an aperitif.