Simon Bladon actually wanted to plant his two fields with evergreen conifers to sell as Christmas trees.
The previous owner had grown hops on the land but Simon was advised that the greensand soil native to this part of the UK is better adapted to vines. Having acquired Jenkyn Place in the late 1990s, in 2004 it was therefore decided to plant a small plot with the classic combination of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier. New additions in 2007 and 2010 bring the total vineyard to approximately 5 hectares (or 12 acres.)
It is a quintessentially English vineyard. Bertie the spaniel runs happily up and down this south-facing, gentle slope. We may be in the North Hampshire Downs, but we’re only at 100m above sea level. There is clover in the centre of the rows for the nitrogen that they bring back to the soil. The vines are spaced 120-150cm apart and trained at 85cm (not dissimilar to Upperton…)
After harvest, the grapes go to the Wiston Estate Winery near Worthing for the vinification. Wines are made according to the traditional method and stay on the lees for approximately three years before being released. 2006 was the first vintage for Simon and his family.
What I like about this winery, especially when compared to other producers in the area, is the extent to which this has remained very much a family affair. Simon’s signet ring was the inspiration for the griffin symbol in the Jenkyn Place logo. He maintains executive control over all the winery’s sales. His daughter, Camilla, has the envious job of coordinating the marketing and PR. On the day of my visit, Rebecca, Simon’s wife, was at home, busying around in the kitchen and preparing a beef wellington. All very relaxed and homely.
As the conversation turns to last year’s vintage, Simon seems confident. Previous years have not been easy but in 2014, they expect to have 25,000 bottles of Jenkyn Place wine, to be divided between a Brut, Blanc de Noirs and Rosé.
Jenkyn Place, Bentley, Hampshire, UK http://www.jenkynplace.com/