The Notebook

Building the Winery

Building the Winery

At Hambledon we believe in treating our product as delicately as possible in order that we can make the best wine we can from our terroir. This shows not only in our choice of the truly impressive Coquard PAI Champagne presses (the Rolls-Royce of Champagne presses) but also in our determination to build the UKs only all gravity fed winery. This meant that the winery had to be higher than normal to accommodate multiple floors for the gravity feed, and constructed to a much stronger specification than most English wineries, in order to bear the weight of presses on the top floor of the building. 

We broke ground on our new winery on D-Day, June 6th 2011. The chalk which underpins our terroir and viticulture is clearly visible in the photographs of the “souterrain” (hole in the ground) we dug for installing the settling (debourbage) tanks. Indeed, the whole site was solid chalk which made digging the foundations very straightforward. By the end of June the hole in the ground was completed and by the end of July the special waterproof concrete for the basement was poured and the ground slab was in place.

However, there was then a delay from our steel suppliers and so the steel was 2 weeks late arriving on site. Given we were trying to build the winery for pressing that September this looked delay looked near fatal to the chances of meeting the deadline for completing the winery.  

However, the steel erectors and the concrete layers really pulled the schedule round. Our wine tank suppliers (Metalinox of Tours in the Loire Valley) also worked very hard to a very short lead time to deliver our tanks – good job Jacques. 

The builders work the August bank holiday weekend, pouring the concrete for the floors in glorious sunshine – which meant the concrete was “going off” too quickly – ie drying faster than desirable. By the end of August the steel frame, roof trusses, and all floors were in place, but there were not walls, nor water nor electricity. 

We had 3 weeks in which to fit the walls and roof, install all plumbing and electricity necessary for making wine, install all the wine tanks and presses, install the tank by tank thermoregulation system, install the life protecting and necessary CO2 system, and much much more besides.

Glad to say all was finished in time. Our French equipment suppliers were amazed to see how quickly a winery could be built in England. In reality, all the planning that had gone in ahead of the installation played a major part in ensuring that the winery was completed to plan, but the builders, equipment suppliers and tradesmen all did a remarkable job in the last 4-6 weeks. The Hambledon Vineyard team then spent a year or more retro-fitting those elements that had not been installed, due to haste, in time for 2011 harvest. We are pleased to say as we write this, that we now have completed the UK’s only all gravity fed winery. Work is complete and our official winery opening ceremony shall be in July 2013.