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Hambledon Vineyard

Hambledon is England's oldest commercial vineyard, established in 1952 by Major General Sir Guy Salisbury-Jones. The year before he was at home with his stepson John in the small Hampshire village of Hambledon, which is also know as the birthplace of cricket. They were looking out of the window musing what might be done with the field directly below them, and as the Major was a keen Francophile and wine lover, John suggested that planting a vineyard might be a consideration. Sir Guy had fallen in love with wine in the trenches during WW1, when French officers would share their wine rations with their English counterparts, and later he had been a diplomat in Paris. The conversation with John sowed the seed and Sir Guy began to research if the idea was feasible and,deciding he would like to make his own wine, planted an acre of Seyval Blanc. Then, taking advice from the esteemed Pol Roger Champagne House, he planted a number of different grape varieties – and the rest as they say – is history! Bill Carcary became winemaker at Hambledon in 1966, and a number of awards followed, including a Gold Medal at the 1983 Internation Wine & Spirits Competition. Soon Hambledon wines were being served on the QE2, in British Embassies around the globe, in the Houses of Parliament, and in export markets including the USA and Japan – the world was taking notice! But there was a change of ownership in the mid-1990's and winemaking activities became restricted, with the vineyards shrinking to 4 acres and the fruit sold to other wineries. In 1999, however, Ian and Anna Kellet acquired Hambledon and, after extensive climate and geological research, replanted the estate. Today there are over 200 acres under vine spread across various sites on Newhaven chalk with the usual trio of champagne grape varieties, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier. This terroir has the same Belemnite content as the best Chardonnay sites on the Côte des Blancs, formed on the seabed of the Paris basin some 65 million years ago (known as the Senonien period in Champagne). A state-of-the-art winery is on site, which opened in time for the 2011 vintage. It was subsequently officially opened by the Duchess of Cornwall and is the only fully gravity-fed winery in the UK. Here the Traditional Method sparkling wines are crafted with fastidious attention to detail. French-born Hevé Jestin is Hambledon's chief winemaker. He is a consultant to many acclaimed wineries around the world and is considered to be one of the best winemakers in the Champagne region. Since 2015 Hevé's compatriot Felix Gabillet is resident winemaker, overseen by Hervé. Hambledon are shining stars of English sparkling wine, producing a superb range of precise and elegant Chardonnay-led wines from the South Downs.