Hambledon Vineyard

Award-winning sparkling wines crafted by England’s oldest commercial vineyard

England’s oldest commercial vineyard has been crafting exceptional wines for 70 years from the historic village of Hambledon, also known for being the birthplace of cricket. Hampshire, with its fine Newhaven chalk and cool yet sunny climate, yields the ideal terroir.

The vineyard was first planted in 1951 by Francophile Major-General Sir Guy Salisbury-Jones, who produced England’s first commercial range of wines the following year. Winemaker Bill Carcary joined the vineyard in 1966 and soon the wines were being served everywhere from embassies and the QE2 to the Houses of Parliament. In the mid-nineties, under new ownership, the vineyard sadly shrunk but in 1999 along came the passionate wine lover Ian Kellett. He acquired Hambledon and set about restoring it to its former glory, growing exceptional-quality Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Meunier. Today, Hambledon Vineyard has Britain’s only fully gravity-fed winery (this is an operations system that uses gravity to move wine through various phases of production), which creates wines that are more sustainable and of the utmost quality. Grapes are 100 per cent estate-grown on the property’s 200 acres of vineyards. Winemaking is under the directorship of Hervé Jestin, a pioneering consultant winemaker and formerly a leading Chef de Cave in Champagne.

Last summer, Ian and his wife Anna fast realised that professional grape pickers, who usually came from Europe, had gone home. If nothing was done, the entire industry, and indeed the future of the sparkling wine industry, was in jeopardy. It was make-or-break. So, with just a few days to harvest the grapes before they were spoilt by colder weather and rain, Ian and Anna took the decision to reach out to local and national media for help. ‘As the oldest commercial vineyard in the UK, we have always felt that we have a duty to protect our industry and lead it to the success and recognition it truly deserves,’ says Ian. ‘The quality of English sparkling wines has gone from strength to strength in the past decades, and we take pride in being one of this awakening’s most active stakeholders. Our mission is to show British people that they can be proud of their own wines, that the quality is world-class, nothing less.’

The media campaign ignited an outstanding response and drew attention to the plight of Britain’s wine industry at large. ‘We got calls from so many people in the region who wanted to help,’ says Ian. ‘Others wanted to live that convivial and unifying experience that harvest represents. People showed up, rolled up their sleeves and made it happen. Looking back, it was a miracle, and we are so thankful to our community for that.’ Hambledon was able to complete its entire harvest, a major achievement and one that Hambledon looks back on with pride.

Hambledon’s second major achievement of 2021 was installing a Biomass boiler, enabling it to use the wood left after pruning the vineyards during winter. ‘We’re so proud that the winery, offices, visitor centre and wine tourism facilities will soon be heated by renewable resources from our own vineyards,’ says Ian.

Moving forward, the vineyard will continue to lead the charge to see British employers make long-term investments in its domestic workforce. Instead of relying on labour from abroad, it hopes to see vineyards across the country building new skills and employment opportunities.