We have recently received approval from the South Downs National Park Planning Authority for permission to build two, admittedly large, new buildings to process our wine – bottling, riddling, disgorging and labeling, and store our sparkling wine ‘on-lees’ – whilst the wine matures and the secondary fermentation takes place and the bubbles appear. After a nervous presentation we got unanimous support from the committee for our plans. Thank you to the SDNPA as we had no plan B!
The two buildings that we have creatively called Phase 2 and 3 (Phase 1 was the Winery) have very separate functions:Phase 2 (Bottling Plant) – Has been designed to house bottling, disgorging and labeling lines, as well as riddling equipment that is used to move the dead yeast into the neck of the bottles before we disgorge – freezing the neck to remove the yeast from the bottle.
Phase 3 (Wine Store) – is temperature controlled and designed to hold up to four million bottles stored in crates at 12-130C. Our wine will be stored for a minimum of three years at this temperature to allow it to mature ‘on-lees’. During this time the yeast cell walls break down releasing wonderful flavours into the wine. It’s a process called ‘autolysis’. It takes longer with some grape varieties than others and requires the natural enzymes within the cells to get to work. This is the magical part of bottle-aged sparkling wine. The longer you leave the wine, within reason; flavours improve, acidity can soften and the bubbles become smaller and more diffused within the wine, so that they last longer when in the glass.
Sadly this whole process requires patience, something that ex-hedge fund managers rarely have in abundance! Our first wine, made from Chardonnay grapes harvested in 2014, a Blanc de Blanc, is currently aging ‘on-lees’ in the bottle and won’t be released until 2018.
Building work is due to start in June and we hope that the buildings will be completed by the end of 2016 and fitted out with bottling equipment ready for this year’s harvest.
Thanks go to Martin Swatton who designed the buildings, Roger Bunney, Pingat, Parker Dann and David Hares.