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South African producers thirst for English fizz

Published:  21 September, 2018

Two prominent South African wine estates are adding to the roster of overseas interest in English winemaking with plans to produce sparkling wine in the UK, Harpers has learned.

Leading Cape MCC (méthode cap classique) producer Graham Beck has initiated a project in England and is to begin making sparkling wine this year, sourcing fruit from Hampshire, plus a little from Kent.

The wine, which will be a classic Chardonnay-Pinot Noir blend, is part of an ambitious drive to raise the profile of Graham Beck and MCC, with the company also considering California as a potential place to produce fizz, while also looking to grow its production from 1.5 million bottles to 3 million bottles back at its Robertson estate.

“The English sparkling wine will help raise the profile of Graham Beck in an international way,” cellar master Pieter Ferreira told Harpers.

Meanwhile, Stellenbosch producers Gary and Kathy Jordan of Jordan Wines, who already have an interest in the UK in the form of High Timber restaurant in London, have begun a project in East Sussex where they are clearing land in preparation to plant grapes next year for sparkling wine production.

“We’ve been considering this for some time, English sparkling wine is doing well and it’s an exciting project,” said Kathy Jordan, who added that quantities, when wines finally appear a few year down the line, will likely be small.

Back home on The Cape, Jordan are also joining a tiny but growing number of producers in planting Assyrtiko. Kathy Jordan said the estate had imported 1,000 vines, meaning around a hectare vineyard, with the first wines to be made in four years time – a project inspired many years ago on a visit to the Greek island of Santorini.

“The vineyard is overlooking False Bay, so it’s cool climate, with cool breezes like Santorini, and we want to plant it in nests like you see on Santorini,” said Jordan. “And we want to make a mineral, aromatic style, not put it in new wood, to keep a freshness of style.”