Cricket lovers throughout the world are familiar with the name Hambledon, even if they've never visited this small Hampshire village. A great club in the 18th century, they were instrumental in developing the game and famously defeated an All England team in 1777, winning a thousand guineas in the process. Currently less well known is that in addition to being the Cradle of Cricket, Hambledon is also the birthplace of commercial English winemaking. For it was here in 1951 that Sir Guy and Lady Salisbury-Jones planted the first English commercial vineyard since the dissolution of the monasteries in 1537.
Although this vineyard was planted with assistance from the Pol Roger Champagne House, the varietals were German hybrids which were used to produce still table wines. Production levels for the next 30 years were up to 30,000 bottles/annum. The wines were sold in London restaurants, on the QEII and to some of the 8,000-11,000 people who visited each year. John Patterson bought the property in 1984, planted new vines and then sold on to Jim LaRock in 1993. He first switched winemaking to off site and then from 1997-2003 sold on the Hambledon grapes to other wineries.
Ian Kellett, who had a former career in corporate finance with Dresdner Kleinwort Benson, purchased the run-down estate in 2004. The following year 4 ha of vineyard was replanted with Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Munier cultivars. Different combinations of clones and rootstocks were used in order to determine those that would be most suitable for the site and, based on these results, vineyard replanting was extended to a total of 20 ha. Plans for the winery were drawn up in 2009 alongside a strategy for raising capital. The business was converted into a plc and received a grant of £500,000 from the EU and UK Governments for winery expansion. A share placing was used to raise an additional £4 million. Official opening of the winery was by the Duchess of Cornwall in July 2013.
The first wine from Hambledon since Kellett took over was the Mill Down 2010, produced by winemaker Hervé Jestin and released in 2013. In 2014 the Hambledon Classic Cuvée was released alongside wines produced at the neighbouring Meonhill estate which was purchased by Hambledon in April 2014. This purchase includes wine stocks and 19 ha of additional land, 4 ha of which are vineyard. Once this additional land is given over to vines, Hambledon could eventually be producing ca. 75,000 bottles of sparkling wine per annum. Next year (2015) should see the release of Hambledon Première Cuvée, which it is hoped will be amongst England's finest sparkling wines.
Pre-booked tours of the estate are available on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays.
(Header image © Hambledon Vineyard)
Tel: 02392 632358
Winemaker: Hervé Jestin
Hambledon Classic Cuvée NV
Hambledon Mill Down Brut
Meonhill Grande Reserve Cuvée
Hambledon Classic Cuvée, NV
Straw colour; restrained, citrus, yeast; dry, fresh acidity, lemon, creamy apple pie palate; med+ elegant finish. (7 May 2014) Outstanding, 93/100
Hambledon Mill Down Brut, 2010
Straw colour; restrained, citrus, biscuit; dryish, good acidity, cooked apples and ripe red fruits, bready; med+ finish. (7 May 2014) Highly recommended, 87/100