In this English vineyard interview we chat to Mardi at Ridgeview and delve into the story behind this multi award winning English vineyard's wines.
Hi Mardi, welcome to the English Vineyard focus blog.To start could you provide some information on yourself and the team at Ridgeview. What lead you all into English Wine production, how big is the team?
I met my husband Simon, Ridgeview winemaker, in Australia in 1999 when he was working in Australia to get some additional Winemaking experience. I grew up amongst vines in Australia and worked in wineries from the age of 15, despite studying law I was always drawn back to wine. I returned to England with Simon and have been responsible for the marketing and PR of Ridgeview since our first year of sales in 2000. We are now second generation with my sister-in-law Tamara Roberts CEO and husband Simon Roberts Director of winemaking. Our team has now grown to over 30 people with a passionate and dedicated work force. We are incredibly lucky to be very close to Plumpton College where a lot of our team have trained.
How long has Ridgeview been in existence, when were the first vines planted and why?
Ridgeview was established by my parents-in-law Mike and Christine Roberts in 1995. They spotted the potential of southern England as prime viticultural land for sparkling wine production when most people in the UK were concentrating on still wine with German varietals. They found the perfect site at the base of the South Downs near the picturesque village of Ditchling, with a gorgeous view of the Ridge of the Downs. Originally, we were producing 20,000, due to demand and with the help of partnership vineyards across Southern England we are now producing 250,000 bottles.
How many different types of grapes to you grow for your wines, how big is the vineyard?
We exclusively grow Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier. Our home vineyard is 17 acres of vines. In order to assist with our expansion, we now work with partnership growers from a variation of sites across southern England, which we love from a unique blending proposition.
Is there one of your wines you’re particularly proud of? If so why?
Our single estate Ridgeview Blanc de Blanc. This is our only wine that is still solely sourced from our 23-year-old vines adjacent to the winery, some of the oldest chardonnay vines in England. A few years ago, our 2006 blend was awarded the best sparkling wine in the world in the Decanter World Wine Awards, still to this day the only sparkling wine outside of Champagne has ever won this award. There is a fantastic purity of fruit in these vines which are some of the highest yielding in the UK. A wonderful balance of minerality and tropical fruit flavours with a brilliant back bone of racy acidity.
You have chosen to only produce sparkling wines. Can you talk us through this decision?
We exclusively grow Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier, sticking to our original plan that we felt this is the best wine to be produced from our cool climate viticulture of Southern England. Like many of the best wine regions in the world philosophy is to concentrate on what you do best. Not only is sparkling wine best for our cool climate and terroir, we can create more consistency with blending over vintage variation and it is a value-added product as we all know it is expensive to grow and produce in England.
Are there any plans for a new Ridgeview wine in the future?
We are constantly innovating and never resting but these things take time, especially when you are making traditional method sparkling wine.
Your wines have been served at Buckingham Palace and 10 Downing Street, which is such an honour. How did this come about? Did you have a private tasting with the Queen and PM?
Our wines are often chosen by Government hospitality to be included in their cellars. We never quite know on what occasions they will be served. We are thrilled that our wine has been chosen on its merits to be served at four Royal State Banquets and for the Queen's Diamond Jubilee. We did have the opportunity to visit No. 10 when the previous Prime Minister was in power and it was decided to use our sparkling wine at No. 10 receptions.
Apart from your own wines, do you have a favourite?
Growing up amongst the vines in Australia I will always have a soft spot of Australian wines especially from my region of North East Victoria – can a I choose a few? Brown Brothers Patricia range sparkling wines, Pizzini sangiovese’s and most of the fortified wines from Rutherglen.
Tell us more about your ‘wine garden’ and other facilities you have on site?
Our Ridgeview wine garden with views over the vineyards and the south downs, adjacent to our woods is open throughout the Summer 11am – 4pm for people to enjoy a glass of sparkling in the garden. We have picnic hampers of local produce that can purchased in advance. We are open for people to drop in and taste the wines 7 days a week 11am – 4pm and we run various tours throughout the week that can be booked in advance from our website. We also host various events including music and street food, yoga in the vines and we are soon to launch a new wine club where we will be including lots more special tastings and chef collaborations.
As you know finding the perfect pairing of food and wine can transform the taste experience. What do you recommend are the best pairings for your wines?
We are lucky enough to work with some incredible restaurants and have been able to explore fantastic food pairings with our wines. Some examples:
Bloomsbury NV – Chardonnay dominant - smoked salmon, crab, bread-based canapes
Cavendish NV – pinot dominant - charcuterie, beetroot, mushroom, quail
Fitzrovia (Rose) NV – summer berries, smoked salmon,
Blanc de Blanc – Chardonnay – oysters, scallops, crab – fresh seafood in general
Blanc de Noirs – Pinot – pigeon, mackerel, duck, mushrooms
Rose de Noirs – Pinot – wild strawberries, bread-based canapes, salmon
Are there any plans to make changes to the vineyard and winery this year?
We are currently planning on doubling production to meet demand over the next five years. In order to do this, we are planning on building a new winery to help with capacity which works will start this year. We are also constantly investing in our tourism facilities as footfall to the winery and demand increases.
Anything else you think we should know?
Export represent 20% of sales of Ridgeview to 13 countries around the world. We now have national distribution to the USA and this is going really well. Our winemaker Simon is just back from Effervescent LA where he was asked to attend and show Ridgeview wines, we are also planning more events in the USA towards the end of the year. Our Scandinavian markets are going from strength to strength.
We have also just launch our brand-new labels which we are incredibly proud of. We felt it was time to move from a more classic and traditional to contemporary and modern label to celebrate the last 20 years of our success and now moving forward to celebrate the future of English sparkling wine.