At Simpsons Wine Estate, no aspect of viticulture or winemaking is outsourced – a reflection of our belief in balance, detail and integrity. Our winemaking methods have been carefully chosen to promote the purest expression of the fruit and our Kentish terroir, with as little intervention as possible. As winemakers in the most dynamic wine region of southern England, unhampered by the weight of old world tradition, we believe we are able to take a fresher approach to our craft, handpicking from both time-honed traditions and modern technology.
In September 2016, Oz Clarke opened our custom-created winery, located within walking distance of our two vineyard sites and equidistant between them. The proximity of the winery to the vines is critical in the creation of top-flight sparkling wine: minimal transportation and manipulation of the grapes prior to pressing helps protect the purity of the juice and minimises skin contact or colour bleed.
Each bottle of Simpsons’ sparkling wine is created according to the méthode traditionnelle. Our base wines are expertly vinified and then bottled and sealed under crown cap, with their liqueur de tirage, (a carefully judged combination of yeast and sugar), at which point the secondary fermentation begins, generating fine, perfectly formed bubbles. Once the fermentation is complete, each bottle then matures for a minimum of 24 months in the meticulously monitored conditions of our winery thus achieving its peak complexity.
This time spent resting on its lees serves to soften the distinctive, racy acidity of English wine and allows the emergence and development of the highly desirable autolytic flavours. There is no place for impatience in the production of sparkling wine. We are in no hurry to release our wine, and wait until the optimal moment to disgorge each bottle of Simpsons.
Although most people believe that the methode traditionelle originated in France, in fact it was an English Physician, Christoper Merret who first documented this process. On 17 December 1662 he presented Some Observations concerning the Ordering of Wines to the Royal Society, in which he describes winemakers adding quantities of sugar and molasses to make the wines “drink brisk and sparkling”.
Spontaneous secondary fermentation had occurred in still wines since antiquity, but most glass bottles of the time were not strong enough to contain the high pressures generated, thus exploding bottles were an occupational hazard of winemaking. Sir Robert Mansell obtained a monopoly on glass production in England in the early 17th century and industrialised the process. His coal-powered factories thus produced much stronger bottles than were available in France.
As a result the English could deliberately induce a secondary fermentation in wine without the risk of blowing up the bottle, long before Dom Perignon is traditionally considered to have invented sparkling wine in Champagne around 1697.