Black Chalk ~ a new English Sparkling Wine from Hampshire ~ launches

Black Chalk – a new English Sparkling Wine – launches this month. Created by award winning winemaker, Jacob Leadley, Black Chalk wines are sourced entirely from Hampshire grapes grown on chalk soil.  There will be two wines initially: Black Chalk Classic and Black Chalk Wild Rose.  Both wines are a blend of Chardonnay, Pinot Meunier and Pinot Noir and the grapes are hand selected each year from some of the county’s finest vineyards.   The wines will have an RRSP of £35 for the Classic and £40 for the Wild Rose and are destined for independent wine merchants and fine dining restaurants.

Both the Classic and Wild Rose – which are small batch and made in the traditional method – launch with the 2015 vintage. The wines have an unusually high proportion of Pinot Meunier (34% in the Classic and 47% in the Wild Rose) – an as yet under-rated variety in English winemaking, and a variety which Leadley believes is ideally suited to Hampshire’s chalklands. Stylistically, purity of fruit is key, along with structure and a complex, balanced palate. The careful use of oak for a proportion of the wines and time on lees helps to develop this complexity. The name Black Chalk derives from the material used by the old masters to sketch initial ideas onto canvas before finalising their masterpiece.  The idea is reflected in Black Chalk’s wine, where the best locally grown grapes are selected, fastidiously blended and aged before market release.

Leadley gave up a job in The City to retrain as a winemaker back in 2009.  After completing a BSc in Viticulture and Oenology at Plumpton College, followed by winemaking experience in Central Otago, Champagne and England, he decided to embark on his own venture in 2015.  He remains on the award-winning team at Hattingley as winemaker, where he has been since 2011 and where he has worked on more than 100 English Sparkling Wines over the last seven years.  Black Chalk is a family affair, with Leadley’s wife Rebecca partnering on the venture along with Leadley’s parents-in-law and brother-in-law.

Specialist distributor, Red Squirrel, has been appointed UK agent and will focus on gaining distribution in restaurants and independent retailers across the UK. For details, please contact Red Squirrel, via: [email protected] or 020 3490 1210.  Black Chalk will handle direct to consumer sales via its website

Commenting on the launch, Leadley said: “Black Chalk has been nine years in the making; the journey has taken me and my family across the globe but has always been focused on England. When quitting my job in The City, my ultimate ambition was to create my own wine. I am in a fortunate position to be able to make wine from what is – in my opinion – the best county for grape production, and at a time when the English Wine Industry is fast coming of age; it is incredibly exciting.  My aim has been to create wines which really typify Hampshire’s chalklands, a terroir that is becoming synonymous with pure fruit expression. We are delighted to be working with Nik and the team at Red Squirrel – they are perfectly placed to take Black Chalk to the trade. For me, Black Chalk is all about beautifully crafted wines from the finest sourced grapes, that people can share and enjoy.”

Nik Darlington, managing director of Red Squirrel, commented: “It’s a great honour and a privilege to be helping Jacob and everyone behind Black Chalk with their important and exciting new English wine venture. We have been quietly scouting for a genuinely ground-breaking, head-above-the-parapet English Sparkling Wine for some time and believe in Black Chalk we have found the perfect fit. Hampshire has some of the finest sparkling wine vineyard conditions in the world – let alone England – and it is on this fine foundation that the beautiful Black Chalk blends are built. Jacob has a proven track record as an exceptional sparkling winemaker, so it’s an enviable combination. At Red Squirrel of course we’ve always held a fondness for the lesser-known grapes, and so a starring role for Pinot Meunier is also a delight to see. We all look forward to what else Jacob has up his sleeves!”

Black Chalk will officially launch at the forthcoming WineGB Annual Tasting at Westminster’s Lindley Hall on 26th April.  Black Chalk will also exhibit at the London Wine Fair (21st to 23rd May) on both the WineGB and Red Squirrel stands.