The Bradshaw’s go to Chapel Down Winery



The British Family have now been on their British journey for 4 weeks and we have had some superb support from all over the country. We were however very excited when we were invited by the CEO of Chapel Down Group, Frazer Thompson to come to his fabulous local winery Chapel Down in Tenterden, Kent.

20130126_111648We were greeted by the warm and friendly team in the shop and were quickly met by our fantastically knowledgeable guide Suzy. She showed us some of the different vines that Chapel Down grow including the Bacchus (a relatively recent crossing with Riesling parentage grown widely in the UK as it does very well in our soil and climate) and Chardonnay a ‘Noble’ grape variety. She also explained that the vineyards had originally been a farm and had been bought by Stephen Skelton in the  1970’s and planted out with vines, a very bold and pretty crazy move at that time.

She did brilliantly at explaining to vineyard novices about the terroir (what the land is like) and how similar our climate is to North France and the region of Champagne. She was also fantastic at listening to Lucan and tailoring the tour to keep things moving and keep him interested.

20130126_112617We moved into the the pressing and macerating room and saw the huge machines that they use to very gently press the juice from the grapes and also some of the oak barrels that the wine matures in. Alongside the barrels were beer kegs, something I had no idea Chapel Down would need but apparently they produce exceptionally good beer too. There really is no end to their talents!

Onward we went to see the process of riddling for the sparkling wines. This is a process that we were told the makers of fine Champagne would have us believe is done by hand but is now almost completely done by a machine. It is basically the second stage of fermentation where extra yeast and sugar is added to add a bit of omph to the alcohol content but more importantly to create the bubbles. However the bottles must be tilted and turned on a regular basis (this is the riddling bit) and at Chapel Down they use the best of new technology to allow this process to be done mechanically and efficiently.

 The next process unfortunately we couldn’t see in action, although as Suzy said it was very very noisy and I don’t think Lucan would have enjoyed it. This was the disgorging room where the sediment of the second fermentation is quickly frozen in the neck of the bottle and then pops out as a sediment ice cube before the bottle is topped up, corked and capped. Lucan got a souvenir for the day in the form of an unused cork which was huge in comparison to the cork that pops out the top of the bottle.20130126_120813

After the walking and the talking it was time for a drink for us and some juice and cheese and crackers for Lucan. We firstly tasted the Flint Dry (as I happen to have one sitting at home ready to drink), the Bacchus and the Pinot Noir. All were superb and absolutely as good if not actually better that a lot of the New and Old world wines out there. Next it was on to the sparkling wines starting with the Chapel Down Brut which was perfect for any occasion where bubbles are needed. Then for a treat we tasted the award winning Rose Brut which really was the absolute business! I would highly, highly recommend this as a proper celebration bottle of bubbly as it has the most amazing flavor that really has to be tried rather than described. Lastly we had a small sip of the Chapel Down Necter Late Harvest, a wonderful sweet wine that is really what is says on the bottle pure nectar!

After all this there was the small question of lunch for which we went upstairs to The Swan at Chapel Down (a review of which we will post separately). And then a little bit of shopping was in order before heading home. Our stomachs were full of great food and great drink but our hearts were equally full of pride that such quality was being produced so close to home. Well done Chapel Down. Please keep beating the French at their own game!

– Emily


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