Cottonworth is a small village in Hampshire's Test valley and was formerly the site of a Roman villa. There are also indications of ancient farming and a water mill and romantics might speculate as to the possibility of Roman winemaking in the area.
Vineyards were established (or re-established) here in 2005 on a small portion of the Fullerton Estate. Until the dissolution of the monastries by Henty VIII, Fullerton had belonged to Hyde Abbey. In 1892 the estate was sold to William Cory and subsequently bequeathed to Charles Liddell, an ancestor of the current owners. Another ancestor is Alice Lidell, who was photographed by Lewis Caroll and who may/not have inspired the title character in “Alice's Adventure in Wonderland”.
The Fullerton Estate is now an arable farm run on organic princuiples by Tom Liddell. His younger brother Hugh is a Plumpton alumnus who has worked in vineyards and wineries in France, South Africa and New Zealand. In 2005 the first small vineyard (1 ha) was planted. There are now three vineyards on the estate covering about 12ha. Vines planted are Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Munier, with the intention being to specialise in producing high-quality sparkling wine. The Pinot Noir clones are predominantly Champagne Pinot, chosen for their high yields, low colour and disease resistance. There are some Burgundy Pinot Noir clones which are mainly used in the production of Cottonworth sparkling rosé.
Having outgrown their original winery facilities, pressing and vinification now takes place at Hattingley Valley winery under the direction of Emma Rice. Some Cottonworth fruit is incorporated into Hattingley Valley wines and the remainder becomes Cottonworth sparkling wines. Currently Cottonworth produce a Classic Cuvée and sparkling Rosé, with the release of a Blanc de Blanc being imminent.
Uniquely for an English wine producer, Cottonworth also produces still wines from Burgundy. Hugh Liddell had studied and worked in this French wine region so had a good understanding of how best to circumnavigate potential pitfalls. Funds for purchasing vineyards in Chassagne Montrachet (les Lombardes) and St Aubin Premier Cru (les Perrières) became available following the sale of 38 ha of Fullerton Estate land to Nyetimber.
(Header image © Cottonworth Wines)