BIDDENDEN VINEYARD INTERVIEW
With a unique attitude and approach to producing English wine we chat to Tom from Biddenden Vineyard and find out it's a family affair with 'no nonsense'.
Hi Tom, welcome to the English wine Collection’s Vineyard focus. Could you provide some background on yourself and the team at Biddenden?
Being 3rd generation we have grown up in the business which in 2019 celebrates its 50th anniversary.
As we move into the summer months things must be picking up in the vineyard and winery. What’s an average day like at Biddenden?
When my grandparents took over the farm they were given a cartoon picture with two gentlemen taking a rest which states “Tomorrow we must get organised” it remains true today.
Do you think there are any unique elements about the vineyard at Biddenden, what’s key to your ‘terroir’?
We are focused on our variety Ortega, grown on a sandy loam over clay planted wider than the average vineyard to allow good light and slightly higher to allow for air flow under the fruit.
Could you talk us through your wines? Which of your wines really stands out that you're proud of and why?
Ortega, probably some of the oldest vines growing in England, 46 years old. Fruity aromatic, early ripening, it’s very hard for people to mask their true thoughts when tasting a wine in front of you and Ortega seems to hit the mark. Our Rosé Sparkling from Gamay is always fun and attracts regular praise.
English wine is still in a shortfall in terms of supply and demand. Do you have any plans to increase production? How would you suggest the English wine industry as a whole deals with this?
We have planted some new vines this year, Bacchus, is very popular but it will also allow us to have 'our eggs in other baskets' as it ripens at a different time of year to Ortega. As an industry we need to keep telling a quality story, cellar door, there will be no long term future for anyone who goes cheap as we don’t produce a consistent quantity of grapes with our maritime climate.
Do you source grapes from other vineyards or are they all grown on site?
Most certainly only grown on site.
There is now a broad range of English Wines available in the market place. Despite this, new wines are regularly being released. Do you have any plans to introduce a new Biddenden wine?
This is the fun thing about our industry, although our main efforts go towards Ortega, growing a selection of other varieties in an agricultural environment means that in certain years when the weather is extremely good we can produce some amazing wines, we keep hoping for another 2003, 2009, 2011 to produce another still Gamay much commented on by Jancis Robinson, our Pinot Noir this year praised by Matthew Dukes.
Other than you're own English wines, do you have a ‘go to’ wine of choice? Please tell us about your favourite wines.
I'm a bit of a sucker for a Riesling.
Sparkling wine, Prosecco and Champagne all compete in a highly competitive market place. How do you think they compare with one another? Should they be deemed as different wines?
Completely different, most Proseccos seem to be lively up front, just a hint of fruit at the end, but a bit of a bland gap in the middle, as compared to the rich fruity balanced flavour of the latter being produced further north, like some good English Sparkling wines which are more than a match.
Key to enjoying wine and food is finding the right pairings. Could you tell us about the ‘perfect pairings’ for your wines, any surprises?
Ortega is always great at lunch time with hams, salads and the outdoor summer foods; or a good evening wine, cold at first as an aperitif, then enjoy with meals which have a touch more spice.
England is now being known for its specific terroir which is key to the identification and character of English Wines. What would you say is key to the terroir at Biddenden and how does this influence the style and character of your wines?
When you stand at the top of the vineyard you can see where the weather comes from, just high enough to bring a bit of character, but the vines sit in a sandy loam over clay and free draining soil, this with the older vines adds a richness to the glass.
Despite the soaring popularity of English wine, the majority of the world is still unsure where to start with English wines. What would you suggest to a new comer of English Wine?
Just get out and start tasting, build a picture of the varieties, the locations, look at the vintages, look at the landscape and don’t write off a vineyard or wine on your first visit, we have a maritime climate, every year is different go back and try again, say what you think not what you think everyone wants to hear, and remember it’s easy to criticise, harder to praise.
Do you have any plans to increase scale and production of your English wines? What are Biddenden’s plans for the future?
Our aim to date has been to work as close to the consumer as possible, we are happy with our older vines now agronomy and plant health are better understood, we have planted more vines, but the aim is to grow the quality of the experience.
If we came to visit your vineyard, what can we expect?
A visit to Biddenden is a touch of reality; a working vineyard where you enter into what’s happening, not just into what we want you to see, friendly staff and an openness that comes from our history
Anything else you think we should know?
We feel very much as an independent that you should look behind the label, what are the origins of the wine you’re buying, too much these days is hidden behind a fancy website and a few pictures.