Fox and Fox Vineyard interview
Fox and Fox have recently shot into the public awareness after winning Platinum awards at the prestigious Decanter wine awards. We caught up with Jonica to hear more about their English wine venture and multi award winning English sparkling wines.
Welcome to the English wine Collection’s Vineyard focus. To start, could you tell us about the team at Fox and Fox?
Gerard and I co-own Fox & Fox and have a slightly mad time running it together, we have a shared fascination with fizz and find we have complimentary skills. He is also our back-up tractor driver when Vineyard Manager Emma Bridge has work for him. It’s an effective combination of the three bossiest people I know (myself included) and forms the core of what we do. We make our wines at two Sussex wineries and count ourselves very fortunate to have a great support team adding their skills and opinions to our own.
What has been your career history to date, how did you end up in the English wine industry?
Gerard and I have spent enough time talking to friends and each other over glasses of wine that it was probably inevitable that we’d become completely immersed in it. At first as wine lovers and now as wine makers, our career paths were worlds away.
Gerard was a city slicker (Managing Director at Credit Suisse) and I had a media background. Starting a vineyard here seemed like a great adventure and a good use of our land. Gerard encouraged me to go to Plumpton College to learn more; three stimulating years later I had a BSc Viticulture and Oenology (wine making) and we had a vineyard just coming into production. It’s been non-stop since then. We’ve continually experimented, studied, and developed our craft and we’ve loved every minute of it despite some daunting challenges.
How old are the vines and when did you start your English Vineyard?
We planted our first vines in 2004 and it seems we have been planting vines pretty much ever since, establishing our second vineyard in 2010 and selling it in 2020, then adding more vines to our original vineyard in the last two years. We now have vines ranging from 17 years old to new-this-year. I am excited that gives us a wonderful combination of mature-vine grapes and young-vine grapes to work with. The best of both worlds when it comes to flavour and quality.
Fox and Fox has won some impressive wine awards recently, talk me through your English wines and the awards that they have won.
We think that competitions are for benchmarking our wines. We want to ensure our English Sparkling Wines deliver world class quality and be themselves, to have their own personality and not just copy what other wine regions produce. For us, the richness of our fruit flavours on the tip of your tongue when you first taste, followed by a whipped cream textured mousse coating your mouth before a long, refreshing finish gives a flavour profile that is different and special. Like all producers our sense of which our best wines are varies over time but our pure Chardonnay, Essence, is proving to be reliably dazzling. The first vintage (2011) achieved 96 and 97 points in a Decanter panel tasting, the second vintage (2014) was highly awarded but our Tradition 2014 stole the show for that vintage with a Decanter Platinum (97) point medal. This year Essence shone again with the 2015 vintage getting one of seven Decanter gold medals awarded to English Sparkling Wine in a competition that had over 18,000 world-wide entries (of all kinds of wine). We were the Sommerlier Wine Awards second place Sparkling Wine Maker of the Year 2020 , runner up to Taittinger Champagne. That was a huge morale boost just as lockdown started. What do medals mean to us? The confidence that our wines are good enough to stand alongside those of more famous producers.
How have the recent harvests been for you at Fox and Fox - the last two years have both been incredible summers, how is the vineyard looking for this year?
We’ve had some great fruit to work with over the past few summers, this year we’ve had mental weather, a long frosty April, the wettest May for 67 years, a June that was both warm and wet and now a heatwave. We’ll see the effect of all that shortly as the vines move beyond pollination to visibly showing their set fruit but at the moment the potential crop looks good and the vines are verdant.
Do you have any plans to produce any still wines, an English red wine or English white wine perhaps?
We love sparkling wine. I admit to an occasional flicker of curiosity and yearning to make still wines (I sort of feel I owe to the grapes to show them off this way) but, come harvest, all either of us want to think about is making delicious, characterful sparkling wines, so no, no plans for still wines.
What other wines do you enjoy drinking, do you have a favourite wine region other than England?
We are mainly B (and C ) drinkers, pour us a glass of Bordeaux, Burgundy, Barolo, Barbaresco or Brunello and we are happy. We are both much more likely to drink fizz than still white wine although I love a Chablis as much as a Champagne.
What are the future plans for Fox and Fox?
On top of our Tradition Blanc de noirs and Essence Blanc de blancs and our innovative Inspiration (Pinot gris) and Meunier varietal wines, we’ve some exciting Limited Editions maturing quietly in the cellar and a wider range of Magnums coming, Tradition is already available in Magnum and Essence will be soon.
Anything else you think we should know?
We are very proud that every one of our wines is certified by The Vegan Society so you can pour a glass of Fox & Fox for any guest, confident that all everyone will enjoy it.