Could new vineyard produce East Anglia’s first prosecco?

PUBLISHED: 09:59 25 May 2018 | UPDATED: 10:03 10 June 2018

Winemaker John Hemmant  Picture: Chet and Waveney Valley Vineyard

Winemaker John Hemmant Picture: Chet and Waveney Valley Vineyard


Chet and Waveney Valley Vineyard has ambitious plans for 2018.

Just weeks into launching its blancs de blancs sparkling wine Horatio, new winery Chet and Waveney Valley Vineyard, based in south Norfolk, has won a bronze Decanter award.

Described by John Hemmant, who owns the vineyard with wife Bridget, as fruity and fresh on the palette, with characteristics of lemon, lime, floral blossom, pear and apricot, Horatio is a shining example of just how good English wine can be.

John and Bridget planted their vines seven years ago over seven acres, adding 13 this year as production ramps up. This is no fast industry. It takes three years for the vines to properly establish and give over their fruits, so to have waited patiently to harvest, and gone on to win an international award is quite something for the couple.

Horatio is produced using the Champagne method, with a second fermentation occurring in the bottle and has been made with some rather different grapes to the usual Champagne blend.

“We are growing Pheonix, Seyval Blanc and Regent,” says John. “We’ve been blending the Syeval Blanc and Pheonix for whites, and adding the Regent, a red grape, for the pink, which is unusual. The trio for Champagne is Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier and most large producers on the south coast are obsessed with that. I felt we could use varietals more suited to this climate and which are fruitier.”

John, however, admits he’s also planted the ‘magic three’ traditionally used in Champagne.

Going into the summer of 2018, the winemaker says he’s excited to also introduce three still wines alongside Horatio. Solaris is “much more complex and buttery. It’s an interesting wine. A lot like a Sauvignon Blanc but with less gooseberry. It’s almost grapefruity”.

There’s a rose made from lightly pressed and cool fermented Regent grapes. And the Schoenburger has what John describes as a muscat fragrance on the nose.

Interestingly the couple have chosen to shy away from favoured grape varieties often used in the UK, such as Bacchus. “But Pheonix is the son of Bacchus – it’s bred from Bacchus so it’s the next generation. Bacchus is not an easy grower. I went for this variety because it had been bred to be resistant to fungal attack and also to ripen in this climate.”

In an exciting twist to the Chet Valley story, John also reveals he’s experimenting with the prosecco method using the Charmat method. Grapes have been shipped off to Bevtec, which has the equipment, and if all goes well, we could see East Anglia’s first ever processo going into production, which John says will be a lighter, fruiter wine.

The vineyard is currently stocking Harper Wells and Jarrold in Norwich and John will be at the Royal Norfolk Show sampling and selling bottles.

Tastings and tours can also be booked via the vineyard’s website.

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