The following English vineyard interview is with James Mead MD of Roebuck Estates. After recently winning Platinum at Decanter we caught up with James to find out more on the award winning wines and Roebucks' plans for the future. Wines available here or click on the images below.
Welcome to the English wine Collection’s Vineyard focus. James' could you provide some background on yourself and the team at Roebuck Estates?
Roebuck Estates was established in 2013 by two friends, Michael Smith and John Ball, whose shared love of great wine and belief in the potential of the English wine industry sparked several years spent searching for the perfect vineyard sites. From the outset their vision was to craft Sparkling Wines to rival the very best in the world. Not satisfied with simply planting prime sites from scratch, they also set about acquiring well-established vineyards with proven track records of producing high-quality fruit.
I joined the business over six years ago, having spent a number of years living and working within the wine trade in Asia. The lure of a new emerging wine region was simply too exciting not to get involved. Since then, the team has continued to grow and we now have over ten full time Roebuck employees, whose passion for growing great fruit, crafting outstanding wines and taking these to an appreciative audience is unrelenting.
We are approaching the end of harvest, how has the year been to date and what’s the vineyard and grape crop looking like?
The 2021 growing season has thrown almost every challenge imaginable at us but we got to the end of it unscathed with a good crop of fruit. As with every season, we plan for every eventuality and have a team of unbelievably dedicated individuals who take great pride in providing the winery with the finest components to craft wonderful blends – this is something that stays consistent regardless of the weather.
Talk me through your English wines, what is unique about them?
We like to think of our three wines as a family, each showing their own character and individuality, and constantly changing personality as they evolve. Our wines are far from stationary in state and have a surprising ability to show a new trait whenever we taste them. Our Classic Cuvée is like a solid dependable workhorse – a perfectly balanced blend of the trio of Champenoise varieties, with a lovely richness and excellent length.
Our Rosé de Noirs would probably be the fun sibling of the three. Very playful in style, light pink in colour and with an unashamed red fruit drive on the palate.
The Blanc de Noirs is the brooding older sibling. Much bigger, richer and structured. Loads of black fruit character but with balanced acidity and a great finish.
You have unique branding using the head of a deer on the label, what’s the story behind that choice?
Our name and the imagery that we use of a Roebuck head really tie into our local surroundings where we often see Roebuck deer running free. They are majestic animals with a real grace and poise – characters that we think our wines also display.
Do you enjoy pairing your wines with food, what ‘perfect pairings’ have you discovered?
This is something that we love to experiment with because our wines are all so different in personality. The Roebuck Classic Cuvée is a great ‘All Rounder’ – it has balance, richness and style and pairs well with most light appetisers, seafood or creamy pasta dishes. Our Blanc de Noirs on the other hand has huge amounts of richness and has a lovely seam of acidity which cuts through fatty foods. We’ve occasionally experimented with red meats although I tend to think this can be too much. Some richer poultry like goose work incredibly well. Finally, our Rosé de Noirs is an absolute treat to enjoy with puddings – it’s lightness of touch and playfulness work brilliantly with fruit based patisserie.
Roebuck Estates' was recently awarded a Best in Show trophy at Decanter, how did you get the news and what does this mean to you and the team?
We’ve won a number of prestigious awards since we first launched our wines back in 2019 and they are always hugely well received. The Decanter trophy came in 2020 which, as we all know, was a tough time for wine producers so was impeccably timed. Decanter is a staple for wine lovers both at home and abroad and their awards are a great way for consumers to find hidden gems that they might not normally try. For the team it was a real bonus too – a small token of acknowledgment that they are doing things really well.
Tell me more about your commitment to sustainability and the environment, we noticed that you use ‘Absolute Greenline neck foils produced from plant-based polyethylene derived from sugar cane and printed using water-based ink.’ How important was this decision for you to be sustainable and environmentally friendly?
Our sustainability credentials are incredibly important to us and play a key role in everything that we do. We are one of the founding members of the Sustainable Wines of Great Britain (SWGB) certification scheme which will guide our continued journey as we grow. It’s important to say here that we are by no means the finished article in terms of our credentials – we very much intend to keep the focus on sustainability in everything that we do.
Other than English wines, what do you enjoy drinking?
This is a great question but so hard to answer in just a few short sentences. I’ve worked in the wine trade for the whole of my professional life and love trying new wines. I tend to be guided by the seasons. Over the summer I went through a phase of exploring South Africa and am really enjoying some of the Chenin Blanc being grown over there from smaller, passionate producers. I also love dry Sherry particularly when the weather is hot. In the cooler months I tend to revert to Europe and try to find value in village level Burgundy from good growers or artisanal growers in areas of Northern Italy. Cooler climate regions tend to be where my vinous preferences lie.
What do you see as the future for English wine?
It’s hard to focus on just one thing but it’s clear that English wines are both here to stay and are getting better and better. There has been such a lot of investment poured into the industry which is, in turn, supporting more sophisticated marketing, allowing acquisition of state-of-the-art wine making equipment, supporting training and education and generally moving the industry to a footing to drive growth both domestically and overseas. Consumers are also increasingly cognisant of specific brands, styles and regional differences. All of this underpins the success that we have already seen and allows the industry to move forward with huge confidence.
What are Roebucks’ plans for the future?
Our aim ultimately is to take our wines to a global audience and sit shoulder to shoulder with the very best sparkling wines in the world. To do this we’ve got a lot of hard work ahead. Whether it’s building our team, improving our sustainability credentials, developing our range of wines, building our brand both at home and abroad or simply opening bottles of outstanding sparkling wine with friends both old and new, the future looks incredibly exciting.