Hampshire vineyards: Hattingley Valley
Continuing our cellar door tour of Hampshire wineries (hic!), Muddy discovers some sparkling vintages at Hattingley Valley near Alresford.
It’s coming down cats-and-dogs when we visit Hattingley Valley, a 25-acre vineyard near Arlesford. But absolutely nothing can dampen the spirits of the eager visitors joining me at the cellar door. We’re here to learn all about Hattingley and their production processes – and schlurp our way through a few of their superb vintages.
Founded in 2000 by former London law firm partner, Simon Robinson, and once home to chicken sheds, it took vision and a leap of faith to turn the chalky, south-sloping Hampshire fields into vineyards.
A well-timed hire of Head Winemaker Emma Rice (above) in 2008 helped transform the fledgling estate into an eco-friendly, state-of-the-art vineyard. Now one of the largest in the UK, Hattingley Valley have won international acclaim. Demand for their serial award-winning English sparking wines reaches beyond the domestic market, with keen buyers in the US, Australia, Japan and, err, Kazakhstan…
Planted with cutting-edge, laser-guided planting technology in 2008, vines sit on sloping fields. At the top of the site, they are elevated as high as 191 miles above sea level. Hattingley Valley grows sparking grape varieties chardonnay, pinot noir, pinot meunier along with pinot gris and bacchus on mineral-rich chalk soils, similar to those found in the Champagne region.
Look carefully and you might spot a large and rather beautiful silver washed fritillary butterfly fluttering around the vines. It’s the inspiration for Hattingley Valley’s signature butterfly motif printed right through all the corks (perfect excuse to pop a bottle and check).
Grapes are harvested in mid-September to October and gathered in 20-kilo capacity crates by hand. Pressing them intact in small batches helps to create fresh, clean juice. It’s mostly done in copper and magnesium presses but, occasionally, a bit of foot plunging is employed. Love to get stuck-in with that!
Hattingley Valley use some 170 French oak barrels to soften and develop their wines, with the rest vinified in tanks to create different flavour profiles. The secondary fermentation happens in the bottle, a traditional process you’ll find over the water in the Champagne region too, with the ‘riddling’ or twisting done both by hand and mechanically.
To minimise waste, eco-conscious Hattingley Valley use a BioBubble aerobic digester to deal with winery and domestic wastewater, solar panels and lighter glass bottles made from 70% recycled glass.
We learn that famously, Chairman Simon wasn’t keen to introduce a sparkling rosé. Hattingley’s went to become a World Champion Award Winner – and his favourite Hattingley wine. Boy, is he glad Head Winemaker Emma and the team talked him into it now!
We taste a 2018 Vintage, comprising pinot noir and pinot meunier. It’s deliciously fresh, light, dry and packed with soft red fruit flavours like strawberry and redcurrant.
Also on taste are the Classic Reserve (my favourite), made with traditional grape varieties. It’s dry, toasty on the nose with delicious minerality. The 2014 vintage Blanc de Blancs, is soft with subtle sweet flavours of banana and baked apple. Hattingley Valley’s Blanc de Noirs, was made in conjunction with British Airways. Served up in First Class Lounges (naturally), it has a lovely, creamy texture.
Fresh, clean and without the headache-inducing heavy oak characteristics that often see me swerve a chardonnay, the new Still White 2020 has a delicate, sophisticated flavour. I’m just enthusing about tasting melon and a hint of pear, when I’m turfed out by a sober Mr. Muddy, blinking happily into a now dry Hampshire afternoon – swaying slightly as I go…
Buy direct from the vineyard. There’s exclusive benefits and special discounts for members of Hattingley Valley’s (free to join) Kings Club. Tours cost £17.50 and include a generous tasting of current wines. Afterwards, pick up your favourites at cellar door prices. Bring the car and buy a bottle or three for your designated driver…