Girl power: meet the women behind our best English wines
From Queen of Sussex wine-making Sam Linter to Somerset’s rose connoisseur Ingrid Bates, we celebrate the influential women in English wine.
One of the first people Ben met when he got involved in the wine trade was Jane Awty. Along with her husband Iain, they have owned and managed Oatley Vineyard in Somerset since 1989. They have always focused on making wines they enjoy drinking themselves, which happens to be a pair of gorgeous bone-dry white wines. They are named the Jane’s, a varietal wine made from Madeleine Angevine, and the Leonora’s, made from Kernling. Jane’s full name is Leonora Jane and Iain named both wines after her after, one vintage, he was injured and Jane tended to the entire vineyard herself. It is a lovely, romantic story and the wines are consistently excellent.
Oatley’s Somerset neighbour is Aldwick Estate, a larger vineyard and wedding venue located near the stunning Mendips. Owner Sandy Luck is the fifth generation to take over from the late Chris Watts, who first planted vines at Aldwick in 2008. Despite being a young vineyard, Aldwick today produces a range of multi-award winning still and sparkling wines. At the helm, Sandy has impressively juggled Aldwick Estate as a sought-after events venue, wine tour paradise and produced genuinely delicious wines year on year.
Not too far from Aldwick, Ingrid Bates is the Bristol-based owner of Dunleavy vineyards, located in the beautiful Chew Valley in Somerset. After working in Biology and media, Ingrid found her true vocation in 2008 when she planted her vineyard of Pinot Noir and Seyval Blanc. Making exclusively rose wine, Ingrid’s blend has received multiple awards and critical acclaim each year. Dry in style, the rose combines fresh strawberry overtones with zippy lemon and redcurrant notes. The wine is extremely popular and Novel Wines has to get in there quickly each year to make sure we have enough stock on our wine list!
Along with the trio of vineyard owners, Sussex is home to the Queen of winemaking: Sam Linter from Bolney Wine Estate. Sam has overseen Bolney’s rapid growth to becoming one of England’s best known and largest wine estates. With a keen eye for quality and an undying love for the Pinot Noir variety, Bolney now has an impressive portfolio of 8 sparkling wines and numerous still styles. The winery also has a partnership with Kew Gardens, creating an exclusive range for them too.
Finally, we have to swing by the South Downs in Hampshire and pay a visit to Augusta Raimes - one of the new kids on the block. Augusta is, like Sandy at Aldwick, the fifth generation to take over her family estate but the vines here were planted on Raimes’ south-facing chalk slopes only recently, with their first vintage a Blanc de Noirs 2013. Fresh young vines like this have a lower yield and brilliant concentration of flavour, so Raimes’ first vintages - including the current 2014 Classic blend - have been world class.
The English wine trade may be young but these inspiring women are proving that there is lots to look forward to in the years to come.