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Waitrose to plant English vineyard

Waitrose is going to plant its own vineyard in England, so that it can start to make sparkling wine in a few year’s time.

Waitrose saw sales of English wine nearly double in 2007, being led by the soaring interest in our home-grown fizz, and currently producers here can’t keep up with demand. As a result, the retailer has taken the decision to plant vines next year on its own farm in Hampshire, The Leckford Estate.

Waitrose’s English wine buyer Justin Howard-Sneyd MW said, ‘Our customers are really enthusiastic about English wines and we have seen some fantastic quality from Nyetimber, RidgeView, Chapel Down, Camel Valley and Denbies. We are all incredibly excited about being involved with the planting and growing of our first vineyard. In addition to the Estate sparkling wine, the vineyard also provides an opportunity to connect our wine specialists to the production cycle of the vineyard, and to enhance their education about how wine is made.’

The Leckford Estate is located on gently rolling chalk hills either side of the River Test, which has several sites with a sheltered southern aspect where the soils have just the right balance of chalk and clay loam for the grapevines, says the retailer. In fact, many of the soils of southern England are similar to those where the most famous sparkling wine in the world is made - Champagne.
Customers for Waitrose’s own sparkler will have to be patient though because the vines will need three years before there is a first crop of grapes, followed by a two-year winemaking and maturation cycle. This means that Chateau Waitrose won’t debut on the shelves until 2014.