Investigating the allure of English sparkling wine
Food & Drink
The industrialist Adrian White was taking a stroll with Richard Selley when his friend, the professor of geology, observed the viticultural possibilities of his farmland. This area on the borders of Surrey and Kent as well as parts of Sussex and Hampshire, he said happen to share a very similar climate and soil to Champagne across the water. He noted that the conditions, the orientation, the chalky slopes and microclimate are ideal for growing vines to produce a sparkling wine much in the style of the French.
That was four decades ago. Following some trials and errors, now a select group of local winemakers have been busy building somewhat of a global reputation for their crisp and dry sparkling wine. Using a blended cool-climate grape variety of Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Meunier, and made to the classic méthode champenoise, their product has a distinctly English character with the spirit of this green and sunny southern region. Some French houses are investing here too, with Taittinger planting vines on some 170 acres of Kent farmland.
We are often contacted by companies involved in the food and drinks industries wanting to refine their brands, and by individuals in search of a dream to create a new brand be it a restaurant, a new winery or a boutique gin. So, intrigued by the promise of the English sparkling, we took a trip to visit some of the main wineries. Our aim was to meet the makers and the producers, and see why this region has been making quite a name for itself.
And there are a host of exciting players. What we found even more interesting is that each offers their unique flavour, not only with the produce, the still and sparkling wines, but the personalities and presentation. For instance, one of our recent clients, Hush Heath Winery, has built a visitor centre which feels almost organically woven into its wild landscape of fertile vines and honey-making wildflowers.
Elsewhere, Charles and Ruth Simpson from the Simpsons Winery have initiated The Wine Gardens of England – a collective of Kent makers to help create the sort of wine tourism you see in areas of California, in Napa and Sonoma. Similarly, with its bustling visitor centre and grounds that openly welcome locals, Denbies (where Adrian White first discovered the land’s possibilities and is now run by his son Christopher) has forged an intimate relationship with its people and environment, which no doubt contributes to its success as one of the largest UK producers.
English sparkling wine occupies a small niche, yet some of the producers we met position themselves as Champagne disrupters – which perhaps feels a touch off-brand. Champagne is the master of producing Champagne – refined and perfected and, rightfully, brand-protected through generations. English sparkling has its own character, embedded in this glorious sunshine-filled corner of England.
There is room for refinement. This is a relatively new industry here and will no doubt blossom through the generations. Saying that perhaps it is this boutique nature that forms part of its appeal. The spirit of the makers – these nonconformists, adventurers and dreamers – is bottled in these sparkling wines, as is the beautiful landscape here. The branding, the visuals and the design (and in some cases the delivery) though could do with reflecting this unique and special charm.
With extensive experience in this industry, Spinach branding and design agency specialise in helping businesses large and small refine their identities. And we create new brands from scratch. This includes advertising for global drinks giant Campari, and branding and logo-design for Enortia&Coe. Our team in London have worked with restaurants and winemakers from concept to completion to include ĀKĒDO in Washington DC and Ichibuns here. We are currently involved in an exciting new Japanese dining concept – but more on this later.
Other clients have included French winemaker Domaine La Lauzeta and the Côte d’Azur’s CAP Gin. On behalf of Corney and Barrow, we refined the identities of some of the world’s most revered wines – Domaine de la Romanée-Conti, Champagne Salon, Château Trotanoy and Clos de Tart. We have worked closely with the artisan bakery Paul Rhodes to refine their brand, and specialise in creating intuitive websites that will help your brand stand out from the crowd. Spinach also writes and designs unique brand books – our portfolio includes The Life Negroni, La Vita Campari and Sacred by Nature – delivering powerful brand messages.< Back