Talking to people with passion for what they do.
Jacob Leadley is an award winning winemaker for a new label – Black Chalk, produced at Hattingley Valley, near Alton in Hampshire. He is married with three children.
Did you always want to be a winemaker? No, not always – I grew up in the North East of England and wine-making didn’t come up in our career talks at school. I spent 9 years working in London for a few banks before my wife Rebecca and I went travelling. It was while in New Zealand we first discussed winemaking as a distant dream. Once we returned to the UK we made the leap in 2009, both leaving our jobs on the same day.
Black Chalk was released this year to great acclaim, but when did production begin? All our grapes are sourced from grower vineyards within 10 miles of Winchester, we use Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier. The Meunier is a key element of the wines and I blend using a slightly higher proportion than most producers, it provides weight, texture and fruit. Our first vintage was in 2015 – these are the two wines we have released this year, Classic and Wild Rose.
Why has English wine become increasingly popular? English sparkling wine has over the past 15 years established itself as more than capable of competing on the world stage. Some say climate change is the reason but other factors have played a part. We have had a huge amount of investment in equipment and people, this is key when you are making premium wines. It is also clear that sales of sparkling wine in general have been growing for a number of years, and as people drink more, the idea of local grown, high quality sparkling wine appeals. It is becoming more popular because the quality is as good if not better as other options on the shelf at a similar price point.
Can English wine ever compete with French wine producers? Simply put yes. In terms of sparkling wine we already do, we might lack the marketing power of some French houses but we already compete and win both in sales and in competition.
How about a good English red wine? The dream – I love Pinot Noir and think this is a good option for English winemakers, we have run some trials and other winemakers have made some very good Pinots reds over the years. This year might produce the best reds the country has seen, so eyes peeled for 2018 English Pinot Noir!
Tell us your thoughts about the mystique/snobbery that surrounds wine? Good question – I hate the snobbery. For most of us a good wine is one that you can drink with friends and family and does not cost a fortune. I always say that if you enjoy a wine then don’t let anyone tell you why you shouldn’t. Wine is a complicated world, 1000s of grape varieties, regions, styles and production methods. Some people take it too seriously. I make Black Chalk to be enjoyed but what drives me is making the best wine I can.
Your favourite food and wine pairing? Black Chalk – Wild Rose and Lobster bao buns from Two Doors Down in Southsea.
Posted in: Food & Drink