FIFTEEN years ago wine connoisseurs across the world were turning their noses up at English wines.

But after years of heavy investment coupled with stronger expertise, savvy business sense and the right type of soil Hampshire wines are on the up.

Hampshire wine has grown from being a cottage industry to one worth tens of millions of pounds with 38 vineyards operating across the county with more planted every year.

The region helped the country to produce 6.3 million bottles of wine last year with sales of English wine predicted to make £100 million this year.

Many of the county’s vineyards produce sparkling wine, which in some tests is beating those from previous winners in regions such as Champagne and Prosecco.

Interest is so high that Hambledon Vineyard, England oldest, is on course to produce one million bottles a year and is now selling their "English fizz" on Virgin Atlantic flights.

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It comes as six wine producers will be at a Vineyards of Hampshire Wine Festival today at Hambledon.

The future is so good that its managing director Ian Kellett, and the festival’s organiser, believes Hampshire will benefit hugely in years to come.

He added: “Hampshire is going to be England’s wine county in the future because of the geology. It will take a long time but Winchester will be the capital city [of the country’s wine] in my view.”

He said: “The industry is gathering pace. Now the stone is rolling down the hill a little bit faster.”

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Caroline Stevens, sales and marketing manager at Danebury said that “people are pleasantly surprised” when they taste wines from the Stockbridge vineyard.

“More and more people are contacting us now. Initially I was contacting them, the word has got out. There’s more Hampshire vineyards now, the quality is better,” she said.

Three types of grape – pinot noir, pinot meunier and chardonnay – are grown here in Hampshire creating the high quality sparkling wine which the region is becoming famous for.

A line of chalk running through the country helps create the right soil conditions allowing sparkling wine to be produced.

But while sparkling wines are faring well, vineyards are finding it hard to produce world-class still wines because of the soil and the weather.

Even though it is cheaper to produce sparkling wine in this country than it is in Champagne the news that there are so many vineyards still surprised Ian.

Tracy Nash, commercial manager at Hampshire Fare, said: “People are often surprised to discover just how many vineyards are nestled in the Hampshire countryside.

“The chalk and flint soil and the long summer days offer the ideal growing conditions for the vines.

“English wine is causing quite a stir on the international scene and we appeal to local people to give Hampshire wine a try to see what makes it so special.”

Wine journalist Susie Barrie said while connoisseurs are assured of wines from Hampshire, the public are only now beginning to hear about it.

“While wine connoisseurs may be aware that Hampshire produces top quality sparkling wine, most regular consumers are only just beginning to hear about it," she said.

“It always takes a while for a nascent industry to gain recognition and a loyal following, but if consumers are given something to local to get behind, as long as the quality is there, they’ll be hugely keen to support it. It’s the same with the local food industry."

“Both [my husband Peter Richards] and I are hugely enthusiastic about English wine. Sparkling is what the UK does best and many of the English sparkling wines on the market today are world class. In terms of still wines, there’s still some way to go. The whites tend to be more consistent than the reds, and there are a few excellent whites currently being made, which bodes well for the future."

But why is English wine still so expensive?

Susie added: "Top quality sparkling wine is expensive to make wherever you are in the world and we have to change our mindset. We have to think of it in the same way as when we’re buying a bottle of Champagne. Just because it’s on our doorstep doesn’t mean it’s going to be cheaper.”

There is also the fact that other wine producing nations, such as France and Australia, has vast amounts of land compared to us and can produce so much more.

Danebury describes itself as “boutique” and produces 15,000 to 20,000 bottles a year while Ian is still only producing 200,000 bottles a year and sparkling wine takes a little longer to produce.

Roger Marchbank secretary of the Wessex Vineyards Association, said: “[Australian vineyard] Jacob’s Creek is factory which makes Fawley refinery look tiny. The ones in Hampshire are handmade.”

He added that some supermarkets are able to sell wine at a discount because they are mass produced.

“It’s not expensive, it’s the right price for what you’re buying. We live in a world where there happens to be a huge amount of much cheaper stuff,” he said.

The Vineyards of Hampshire Wine Festival is part of Hampshire Food Festival which runs throughout July.

Cottonworth, Danebury, Hattingley Valley, Meonhill, Jenkyn Place and Hambledon vineyards will be there.

There will be the chance to taste and buy the wines, tour the vineyard and discover how wine is made.

To book tickets (£5) call 023 9263 2358.

Jenkyn Place will also open its gates on Saturday July 18 at 11am to 1pm and Saturday July 25 from 11am to 1pm for a tour and tutored tasting with the producer.

Booking essential. Call 020 7736 3102.

Susie Barrie and Peter Richards will be hosting A wine festival teturns to Winchester’s Guildhall from November 27 to 29.

Hundreds of wines on free-pour tasting from Hampshire fizz to vintage port – plus music, masterclasses, an amazing prize draw, food and more will be on offer.

Early bird tickets (£5) and further information is available via




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Cast study: Ian Kellett

FRIENDS of Ian Kellett were surprised with his decision to buy a 20-hectare vineyard in Hampshire.

A former investment banker and a trained biochemist, he saw the attraction in buying up the Hambledon Vineyard.

Its links with cricket – the village club is one of the oldest in the country – and the fact that the vineyard was the country’s oldest sold a brand of Englishness that few others could boast about.

The father-of-three remembers what people’s reaction was back in 1999 when he told them of his business venture.

“People thought I was a bit nuts. I had a house in France and a vineyard in England, the wrong way round,” he said.

“The fact that I was selling wine from England’s oldest vineyard was an interesting prospect. It’s one thing to say you have the oldest vineyard in Champagne, another to say you have the oldest vineyard in England, but it’s a lot cheaper.”

When he came on board he immediately stopped the production of still wine, which he described as “acidic” in taste once he realised that the soil was perfect for sparkling wine.

Since then he has invested more than £10 million into the project but is on target to selling one million a year.

At the moment he is selling 200,000 bottles but that will rise to 400,000 over the next two or three years.

“In the last 15 years England has produced some world-class sparkling wines. This vineyard is the demonstration of that,” he said.

“This is not a retirement bungalow project.”