“We are a traditional method vintage English sparkling wine company based in the heart of the Sussex countryside”. Michael Kennedy, CEO
At this time of year, we raise a toast to all the people who have made this year so memorable. There is no better way to do this than with a glass of homegrown English sparkling wine, so it only seemed fitting that our last Friends of for 2023 was with Roebuck, vintage sparkling wine specialists nestled in the South Downs.
The resounding success of Roebuck's delicious English sparkling wine is being tasted and talked about all over the world. Just as the South of England is now considered to be one of best areas in the world for growing grapes, Roebuck is producing one of the finest vintage English sparkling wines. Roebuck is a company with a passion and ethos that’s close to our own hearts at Aubin, they’ve chosen to do one thing really well.
Nestled in the protective micro-climate of the South Downs, just outside Petworth in West Sussex you will come across the vibrant green vineyards of Roebuck Estates. This is where the company was born, with the acquisition of their first parcel of land in 2013. Their oldest vines were planted here and date back to 2006. Since then, they have steadily grown. From one parcel to six vineyards around the South of England they span the counties of Sussex and Kent.
It takes a big team and a lot of hard work to nurture their two hundred thousand vines, across one hundred and eighteen acres of vineyards. A very dedicated team who share the founders’ passion for making waves in the world of vintage sparkling wine. They break the vineyards down into around seventy different blocks and dedicate staff to nurture literally each and every individual vine. Interestingly the flavours and complexities of the wine components
derived from each block vary hugely depending upon its position and the type of soil as well as specific vintage conditions. They make the most of this individuality and character and allow their wines to be a wonderful expression of the growing season in which they were made. It's this that makes their wine totally unique.
Roebuck Estates was founded in 2013 by two friends who had grown up in Sussex and shared a passion for great wine. Their vision was to craft vintage English sparkling wine every single year to rival that of Champagne. Whilst global warming is clearly nothing to celebrate, the warmer drier UK climate has offered the perfect environment for growing grapes. The conditions they now experience in the South of England are very similar to the climate that once was usual in the Champagne region in the 1960s - 1990s, an era considered to be the ‘peak period’ in Champagne. This area of England also shares many of the same soil types as its infamous grandmother, chalk, greensand, and clay. This rich blend of soil gives the vines and grapes the nourishment they require to grow well and produce exceptional fruit. So, the classic trio of grape varieties destined for their Classic Cuvée - Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier naturally thrive in this cosy nook in the South of England perfectly well.
Along with the optimum terroir, the long cool evenings in the South Downs National Park provide the perfect balance to its daytime dry warmth. This balance gives their grapes a good level of ripeness whilst retaining the perfect level of acidity too, crucial for a good sparkling wine. Their wines are made using the exacting traditional methods that have been practiced and honed for many years in Champagne. Each wine is aged in bottle for at least three years
until they know, from a lot of experience, that it’s absolutely perfect and ready to be enjoyed. A generous period of bottle aging allows for a beautiful biscuity, brioche flavour to develop. Using this traditional method, they only produce vintage sparkling wines, with each vintage telling a story of the terroir from that year. This year, we’re told, has yielded a particularly good crop both in quality and quantity, worth noting for three years’ time!
“We like the wines to tell the story from the vintage and of that growing season, we see each year as being individual in their own right.”
From the beginning sustainability was a key aspect of the company’s ethos. Like their namesake, the Roe Deer that they find roaming across their estates, they set out to leave as light a footprint as the deer itself. They never use herbicides on their established vines and encourage biodiversity by introducing their own beehives and allowing sheep to come and graze during the winter months. They have installed a number of ‘hibernaculum’s’ for wildlife such as reptiles
and amphibians to make their homes. This year they took another big step in their commitment to being a sustainable business by employing an ecologist to join the team and really spearhead the future biodiversity of the vineyards. They have found that the more wildlife there is within the vineyards the happier the vines are and the better the fruit is that they produce. Within their processing and packaging here too they try to be as green as possible using sustainable labels and foils. They only use green glass which is the most widely recycled glass, and their cardboard boxes can be easily recycled too.
“We have enormous respect for our land and like the roe deer itself, we aim to leave the lightest footprint on our wonderful environment”.
Roebuck Estates now supply many of the top and most prestigious hotels and restaurants in London and across the UK and beyond, including Dinner by Heston, The Berkeley hotel and the Mandarin Oriental. You can also find Roebuck in high-end retailers such as the food halls of Liberty of London, Selfridges and Harvey Nichols. And it’s not exclusive to the British market, though it is here where it’s most popular. You can find Roebuck wines around the world being served in the top, most swanky bars enjoyed for its complex style and its storytelling about this innovative up-coming English wine region.
“Partly what we like to do at Christmas is to remind people that English sparkling wine stands tête-à- tête with Champagne”.
With Christmas just around the corner Roebuck are at their busiest. They are delivering wine up and down the country with a lot of new points of distribution taken on this year. They are making it a focus to drive their message of just what good quality their wine is and to break the myth that well, it isn’t Champagne. No, it isn’t, it’s actually in many ways much more interesting and delicious than that, and it is grown and made right here. It’s for this inspiring story perhaps that the majority of English wine is still sold within the UK, but their foothold in the US, Asia as well as countries such as Norway, Sweden and Italy is growing fast as their good reputation spreads.
So if you’re looking for a special way to celebrate Christmas this year, a local Classic Cuvée with an inspiring vintage could be just your thing. You just need to pick your vintage, each one comes with differing alluring flavour profiles. As well as the Classic Cuvée 2017 there’s the Rosé de Noirs 2017 made using just the Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier grapes with notes of strawberries and pink grapefruit. The Blanc de Noirs 2018 is made using a single variety - Pinot Noir from grapes grown at their Roman Villa vineyard, how delightful. This one is rich with baked apples, ripe stone fruits layered with notes of toasted brioche, honey and sweet spice.
It's exceptionally joyful to make friends with people working as hard as the Roebuck team to make a product that supersedes its rivals for quality and the care put into each and every vine and bottle. Like Aubin’s ethos of Better is Greater than More, they too are creating something special that people can trust and thoroughly relish whilst caring for their environment too.
Take a look at Roebuck’s website- www.roebuckestates.co.uk or follow on Instagram to hear about the latest events and news - @roebuckestates.