The History of Denbies
The story began in 1986 when the new owners of the Denbies estate, the White family, recognised the unique characteristics of the North Downs landscape. Its south facing slopes, chalky soil and warm micro-climate made it ideal for creating England’s largest vineyard. The impressive chateau-style winery was completed in 1993, the same year as our maiden wine, Surrey Gold, was released. Today, Denbies Surrey Gold continues to be the UK’s bestselling English wine. The scale of the Denbies site allows room for innovative and experimental viticulture and the opportunity to trial new styles of wine making.
The geology of the soil at our site – particularly through its chalk and flint content – lends a freshness and a minerality to many of the wine styles we make. The size of the site means that we have vines of a single variety growing in up to four separate parcels around the estate – and the difference in the flavours of the fruit from the different plots is significant. This is due to variation in soil type, altitude, slope aspect and slope gradient and consequently our wines express the range of different terroirs found across the estate.
There is an increasing demand for fine local produce including wines, food miles seem more important than ever and transparency of production is high on the agenda of many more consumers. Denbies is very proud to clearly state that their wine is made only from single estate grown grapes, so the quality is controlled from the vine to the bottle. All the wines undergo stringent testing by independent laboratories through the English Quality Wine Scheme equivalent of Appellation Controllee. Denbies vineyard and winery are open to the public and trade customers are welcome to meet the winemaker and tour the production area. For the most part, Denbies food miles (25 miles to Hyde Park Corner) is a huge selling point for the smaller parcel production which is an important factor for our end consumers. However, with increased production Denbies is constantly striving to ensure that the benefits do not outweigh the commitment to sustainability and it is therefore become necessary to identify direct supply. Denbies does not currently export outside of the UK.
Meet the Growers
Duncan is a leading viticulturist and consultant at Denbies Wine Estate. He trained in New Zealand, where he worked on and managed vineyards in the Central Otago region, before returning to the UK in 2006 to run a 180 acre vineyard in Essex. He joined Denbies in 2012 and has overseen the planting and establishment of new vines on the estate. ‘The early years are the most important in the life of a vineyard, as this is when the plants must be allowed to develop well and not be rushed into production too soon’. As methods of grape growing continually evolve, Duncan and the vineyard team are constantly evaluating and experimenting. However, they are conscious that ultimately nature still dictates much of what happens in the vineyard. ‘Geographically speaking, we are working right at the margins of where it is possible to cultivate grapes. In some years this can become very challenging, but it can also produce outstanding and unique wines’ says Duncan. He can often be spotted on the estate accompanied by his faithful chocolate Labrador Clive.
Dave is the Vineyard Manager at Denbies and has spent over 23 years on the estate. Originally training as a tree surgeon, he worked in conservation on the 1,140-acre Wimbledon common – one of London’s largest woodlands, before coming to Denbies in 1993 as a vineyard and winery hand. Dave oversees the day-to day management of the vineyard and is in charge of environmental best practice on the estate.
Dave is passionate about English grape growing and knows everything there is to know about the vines on the estate. His dedication knows no bounds and in April and May he can often be seen in the early hours of the morning protecting the vines from frost.
Meet the Winemakers
John Worontshak – Chief Wine Maker
Australian-born John is Denbies chief winemaker. He has been making wine for over 3 decades and has been based in the UK for the last 25 years. After stints at Campbells winery in Rutherglen and Saltram in the Barossa Valley, John travelled the world as one of the first ‘flying winemakers’. He has worked with Penfolds and Yalumba in Australia, Clos du Bois in Napa, Domaine Hugel in Alsace and Domaine Tim Marshall in Burgundy.
John has had a central role establishing the quality and reputation of English wines, winning countless awards for his wines, including the Gore-Browne trophy on five occasions. He is a non-executive director at Mexico’s Casa Madero winery, and a panel chairman for the International Wine Challenge.
Matthieu joined Denbies in 2013 from his family’s winery in the Muscadet appellation in the Loire Valley, where he had been making wines since the age of 15. His wide-ranging experience includes vintages at prestigious estates in Margaux and Piedmonte, as well as numerous study tours to the Champagne region.
Before joining Denbies, Matthieu ran his family winery for 11 years, while also acting as chief winemaker. During his time in charge, the estate grew from 25 hectares to 210 hectares, and established a strong reputation as the producer of top-quality dry white wines from both traditional and unfamiliar grape varieties found in the Loire region.
There are 15 different grape varieties grown here at Denbies; some names will be more familiar than others, but all benefit from the long, slow ripening season and microclimate of the estate.
Grown in The Flintpints, Yew Tree Field, The Hollow and Hillside, Chardonnay is a fundamental ingredient of our finest sparkling wines. A noble variety that oaks very well. It grows well with a consistent crop and is one of the last grapes to be harvested.
A green skinned variety grown in The Dell and the first commercial planting in the UK. Denbies Sauvignon Blanc produces a crisp, elegant and fresh style of wine with noticeable acidity, flavours of grass, nettles and some floral characters such as elderflower.
Often better known as Pinot Grigio. The Pinot Gris produces grey/blue grapes has good disease resistance and gives a deep colour and spicy aroma to wine with aromas of beeswax, melon and honeysuckle.
The first grape ever planted at Denbies and now grown in The Dell, Yew Tree Field, Greenfield and The Approach. This early ripening red variety is suitable for coolish climates. It is the classic grape for red Burgundy but is also an important element of sparkling wines in England.
A black grape planted in The Park and an essential constituent of the finest sparkling wines, along with Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. Pinot Meunier adds depth and fruitiness to our sparkling wine as well as floral aromas, and a precocious character (readiness-to-drink sooner).
Grown on the Park East slope, this grape produces good crops even in cooler years, and has effective disease resistance. It is often used for blending, is well suited to oak aging and is used for still or sparkling wines. Seyval Blanc produces wines with crisp acidity, some fresh apple flavours and is reminiscent of Chenin Blanc.
Planted in The Dell Rhondo produces wines with very good colour and delicate fruit. It blends well with other varieties (such as Dornfelder, Pinot Noir and Regent) and can be likened to a cross between Tempranillo and Syrah.
Another one of the new generation of hybrid varieties bred for wine quality and disease resistance. It produces wines with low acidity, high sugar levels and good yields. Regent wines have intense colour with moderate acidity, can and show aromas of cherries or blackcurrants.
A white grape variety which was created by Hermann Müller from the Swiss Canton of Thurgau in 1882. It is a crossing of Riesling with Madeleine Royale. It grows well in a cool moist climate, has good frost resistance and thrives in the part of the vineyard known as The Limes. Muller Thurgau forms the backbone of Surrey Gold.
Grown in The Brokes and Greenfield, Reichensteiner is a popular white variety in the UK. It ripens early, performs reliably, and is capable of producing large crops of grapes with light honeyed flavours. It is and is often used in blends for both still and sparkling wines.
Named after the god of wine, Bacchus has a fragrant, bouquet with some tropical fruit characters. Grown on a number of parcels on the estate, the different plots of Bacchus express the range of different terroirs found across the estate.
Named after Spanish poet and philosopher José Ortega y Gasset. Ortega produces powerfully scented wines which are floral and peachy in character. The grapes are full flavoured and have high natural sugars. It is also the grape used in Denbies Noble Harvest.
A newly planted variety Solaris is grown in The Dell, The Park and Chichester Road. Solaris has a good resistance against fungal attacks and is perfect for growing on the slopes which are hard to manage with machinery. It produces fruity and perfumed wines with aromas of banana and hazelnuts
A red grape planted in The Shambles, The Pond and The Dell, this dark skinned red grape variety grows well in cooler climates. It has a deep colour and a fruity nose, has a good balance of acidity and ages well.
Grown in The Park, this red grape variety is a ‘Teinturier’ ,a rare red variety with a coloured pulp. Dunkelfelder has intense fruitiness and a very deep, dark red colour.
THE WINE RANGE
Denbies produces a wide and impressive selection of quality still and sparkling wines, which aim to showcase the best in English winemaking. Our wines are carefully handcrafted to fit within our three ranges, giving you wines for everyday drinking right through to complex wines from select areas of the vineyard. Being a large vineyard we are able to produce a wide range of still and sparkling wines, running across our Classic Collection, Cellarmasters Choice and Vineyard Select ranges. It also enables the winemaker to single out specific vineyard plots to make some exceptional small parcels of limited release wines.
Classic Collection: A well-established range of wines, offering quality and consistency
Cellarmaster’s Choice: A range of exceptional wines made from premium grape varieties grown on the estate and specifically selected by our wine maker.
Vineyard Select: A range of outstanding limited release wines, made only in the best of years from select parcels on the estate.
Sparkling Wine Range: A range of English Sparkling Wines produced here at Denbies