Chapel Down Vineyard interview
As we continue to delve into the stories behind England's finest vineyards and wineries we catch up with Mark Harvey MD at Chapel Down and discover why he chose to leave a large Champagne brand to pursue his English wine journey.
Hi Mark, welcome to the English wine Collection’s English Vineyard focus feature. Could you tell us about your history and how you ended up being involved in the world of English wine as MD with Chapel Down?
Before joining Chapel Down and the world of English Wine, I worked at Moet Hennessy for 12 years marketing and selling a variety of spirits and wines including of course, Champagne. The opportunity to move into this dynamic, young industry with such huge potential was too tempting.
As we move into the spring things must be picking up in the vineyard and winery. What’s an average day like at Chapel Down?
A hackneyed response maybe but everyday is different! As Managing Director here at Chapel Down I am involved in all aspects of the business from production through to sales and I love the variety of the day-to-day. I have worked with some pretty cool brands in my career but I can genuinely say I’ve never felt more energised than I do today.
Why did you choose Chapel Down’s Vineyard for your English wine journey?
It will be challenging for me to keep this answer brief! To distil it down, I would say: Brand Love. I have always felt a great pull by the positive, heartfelt views of all that come in to contact with our business and brand. And that is all down to people. Our team. Across all aspects of the business, we share core values of being curious, relentless, fearless and humble. To be surrounded by people who are as energized as each other shines through in the products and experiences we deliver. I’ve worked on some truly amazing brands during my time at LVMH, but this palpable energy from the team has never shone through as strongly as now.
And we have significant investors that share the same passion and ambition for our future. The future years look exciting.
In England we have a unique ‘terroir’ for producing exceptional wines. What would you say are the key ingredients to the ‘terroir’ at Chapel Down’s vineyard? How does this influence your vines?
We choose only the best sites principally focussed on producing high quality sparkling wines. Lime-rich chalk soils on southerly facing slopes. One site that we’re particularly excited about is Kit’s Coty which is a unique and special place for us at Chapel Down. Situated on one of the oldest agrarian landscapes in Britain, Kit’s Coty is named after the monuments to the first settlers of Britain’s earliest farming society who recognised the fertility of the land in the third millennium BC. We acquired the land in 2007 and 95 acres are now planted of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Bacchus. From this we release a range of premium single vineyard wines of exceptional quality.
For most English wine vintages, and English wines in general, there is a short fall in the supply and demand. Do you have any plans to increase your wine production? Any new grape varieties being planted?
Yes we have recently announced funding to double the acreage and production. The focus will be sparkling, so Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Pinot Meunier.
Are all your grapes grown in Chapel Down’s vineyard?
No we source from our own land as well as working closely over many years with partner growers.
It seems that the majority of English Vineyards and wine makers have carved out there specific wines that they want to produce. Do you have any plans to introduce a new Chapel Down wine?
We strive to push the boundaries of English wine production through innovative ways of thinking, whether that be through blending new and traditional winemaking techniques or creating different styles of wine including England’s first Orange Bacchus and England’s first single varietal Albariño. Our aim is always to surprise and delight our customers.
If you had the choice (and there were no English wines available) what would be your ‘go to’ wine?
Life would be so dull without the variety but if Chapel Down were not available I’d go back to my former brand Dom Perignon. Go on, twist my arm!
There seems to be a tough debate over the merits of Champagne compared to Sparkling wine. Do you feel the two are comparable?
100%. The quality is directly comparable and the blind tastings and medals speak for themselves. More excitingly for me, there is a difference too. Our Winemaker, Josh Donaghay-Spire, celebrates the freshness and vibrancy that English fruit delivers and our flagship sparkling Chapel Down Brut has a refreshing “zing” that you simply will not find in Champagne.
Are there any changes due for the vineyard and winery for this year?
Last year we opened a new glass-fronted tasting room, the ‘Wine Sanctuary', overlooking the vineyards at Tenterden. And just last month we refurbed the hugely successful Shop, partnering with Dartington glassware and local charcuterie Moon's Green. Both have really helped accelerate our premium offering.
Further exciting developments at our home in Tenterden to be announced in due course!
That sounds exciting! If we came to visit Chapel Down do you have a restaurant on site?
Yes! The Swan Restaurant at Chapel Down, part of the I’ll Be Mother family, is an 80 cover restaurant with a private dining Chef’s Table and outdoor terrace with spectacular views across the vineyards and surrounding countryside. A multi-award winning restaurant specialising in modern British cuisine and locally sourced seasonal produce, The Swan has been awarded two AA Rosettes and a Michelin Bib Gourmand.
Anything else you think we should know?
We are proud to supply British icons such as Gordon Ramsay and Jamie Oliver, and you can enjoy our drinks at great institutions such as The Royal Opera House, The Royal Crescent Hotel & Spa, The Donmar Warehouse, The London Symphony Orchestra at The Barbican and the Turner Contemporary all of which we support.
We are an official supplier to No 10 Downing Street, are the official sparkling wine of the Oxford & Cambridge Boat Races, the first English wine to be served at Ascot racecourse and are the first English wine producer to feature in the London Stock Exchange's '1000 Companies to Inspire Britain' and the directory of 'Cool Brands™ 2016/17'. All of which is rather humbling.
There's certainly a lot happening at Chapel Down! Thank you Mark for a wonderful English Vineyard focus interview.
To find out more and to buy these multi award winning wines that Mark has been discussing SHOP HERE.