An English estate with one vision; To make only the best tradition method sparkling wine.
Out of Albert Einstein’s many quotes one resonates deeply within me: “Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better.” And in the moment at Ridgeview when you are overlooking the uniform rows of vines, gracefully running down the hills and disappearing into the leafy canopies of the forest with the rolling hills as your vista, you fully understand this quote. A moment in this vineyard is magic, and I don’t mind saying the same for their wine too.
The key to their success so far is helped greatly by being a family run business. Christine and Mike deciding to sell their successful computer business in the early 90’s and throwing their money, their passion and any inhibitions into winemaking has allowed them to refine this craft and truly deserve the title of one of the best sparkling wineries in the UK today.
They began planting vines in 1995, beaten only by one other winery in terms of Champagne variety planting, and with the one vision of making only tradition method sparkling wine, they really were one of the pioneers to galvanize and inspirit others to follow.
In total, there are only 20 people working for Ridgeview and they are currently in their 2nd generation. Although on my visit I caught a glimpse of an enthused young whippersnapper bursting with the excitable energy that only children have, who could well be preparing unknowingly for the title of Generation 3!
The wine comes from a 30 acre property of limestone chalk and clay soils where 7.5 acres are planted to Chardonnay and 9 acres to Pinot Noir and Meunier. In addition they work with 4 other growers closely, which altogether gives them 180 acres planted to vines. That basically translates into a delectable quarter million bottles of ethereal and exquisite first class fizz.
To give you an idea of how hard these Ridgeview folk work with farming these grapes here in the estate, they work with yields of 3 tonnes per acre. I did a quick google search to see what the Champagne yields were for 2014. A much higher 4.7 tonne per acre. It may not come as a surprise to you when I provide you with the fact that is; our weather is NOT as reliable or as pleasant as our Sparking neighbours over the channel, and it is the rainfall that really hinders. To win against the weather we need to reduce yields in the UK so that the sugars can concentrate better in each grape, giving us more fruit ripeness. However the negative of lower yields is that you work harder and get less. Doesn’t this news just make you want to run out and toast to these agriculturists with a glass of the fruits of their labour?
Jumping back into the vineyard, what sets Ridgeview apart from many others is their use of blending. Although only 3 grape varieties are planted they have 13 different clones shared out between their Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier and of these 13, they have grafted vines onto 3 different rootstocks. In laymen’s terms each clone and rootstock produces slightly different styles and flavours, so with their 39 different flavour combinations, they pick each parcel and ferment it separately. Only when fermentation is finished do they look at the different flavour profiles and decide what will blend better together. This also helps with consistency.
At the moment Ridgeview is coming into the perfect wine growing stage in their life with their vines at 20 years old. 25-35 year old vines are considered the perfect age for concentration of flavours amongst champagne varieties, as the art of sparkling is to have great acidity. If vines get too old they will produce even less, concentrating flavours and becoming extremely rich and ripe. They will begin pulling vines and replanting soon, but with the 180 acres of vines that go into the Ridgeview wines, they can continue producing consistently.
Ridgeview are getting bigger and better with their future plans of doubling production to 500,000 bottles by 2020, and with 20% of their production being exported, they are most definitely sailing the ship to bigger waters.
I leave you with one question that never got answered, and I beg you to find out: What is the recipe to their dosage (the liquid added right at the end, to top up the wine and add a certain level of sweetness)? Apparently it is a secret. The last drop of in-geniality, the last touch , the element that brings it all together… and nobody is to know what it is.
Through my frustration, I quite like it: Their secret formula to ensure that Ridgeview stays on top!