Our head winemaker, Josh Donaghay-Spire, was recently interviewed for Off Licence News in which he talks about how he became a winemaker and the joys of working at England’s leading wine producer. Below is an excerpt from the interview:
“I started working in wine bars in my teens and at 21 joined Vinopolis. I realised I wanted to get into wine and that was a way in. The more I tasted, the more I wanted to get behind it and make my own.
I went to Stellenbosch and Franschhoek in South Africa and knocked on doors until someone let me do a harvest. I then went to Plumpton and did a BSc in viticulture and oenology. I enrolled in 2005 when English wine was already really interesting and I realised that was the area that I wanted to work in. One of the key styles is aromatic white wines and no one does it better than Alsace, so in the summer breaks I worked there. I also worked in Champagne, because no one does fizz like Champagne.
I started at Chapel Down in 2010 as a cellar hand and progressed through a couple of roles. In 2013 I became winemaker. I think I will be here a long time – it’s a really exciting place to work. You work in France and you have all these rules to adhere to. In the UK we are discovering our terroir and what works well as we go along. We have a blank canvas and can experiment with styles in a way not many people can. I could have landed in this industry 40 years ago, when English wine was a very different place, so I feel very lucky.
We make sparkling and still wine and Frazer (our CEO) doesn’t mind ruffling a few feathers. He encourages me to push the boundaries and that kind of spirit is exactly what English wine needs. We can do skin contact Bacchus, wild ferments, English first Albariño…
Overall quality is improving all the time. Competition is fantastic for everyone. Our overheads are high and yields are low, so the wine is going to be expensive, but we offer value for money. Our Flint Dry is in Sainsburys for £10, and we offer value at the top end too. Our Three Graces 2011 is a really rich wine from an incredible vintage – 2011 was one of the best years since 2003 in England. It has spent four years in bottle and it’s on the shelf for £30. What vintage Champagne can you get from a great year for £30?! There’s no contest!”
‘Meet the Winemaker: There’s No Place Like Home. An interview with Josh Donaghay-Spire’, was published in Off Licence News on the 19th May 2017.