Part of a new wave it typifies the continuing revival of English wine and the respect it now reaps due to investment, innovation and a changing climate. But far from a frothy lightweight, Ashling Park’s beguilingly complex and grown up rosé is the perfect summer crush and both it and its sister white, the Park Brut, have been hailed for their quality and laden with trophies.
Owner and marketing expert Gail Gardner, who developed the business on family land, explains: “I wanted to show off the estate’s wow factors and create a wine wonderland, but steer away from any intimidating wine snobbery. Above all drinking our wines is about having a good time.”
Behind the jolly cork popping however lies the vineyard’s winemaker Dermot Sugrue and a wealth of skilled production.
In terms of the balance of grape varieties in the sparkling there is less of the sweet chardonnay and more pinot noir and Ashling Park has also invested much time in ageing the wine with the yeast particles, known as the lees, fostering full, creamy flavours.
“Our Cuvee wine has seven years on the lees which is one of the longest on the market,” says Gardner. “Our rounded balanced wine with hints of soft brioche comes from that.”
“We’ve been focussed for many years on building a range that showcases what England is now capable of: producing rich, delicious and most importantly mature sparkling wines at the peak of their development,” explains Sugrue.
“Having that combination of freshness as well as maturity makes them stand out among their peers. Few vineyards have been rewarded for patience as much as us.”
From harvest to bottle takes just under a year and average output from the 50-acre vineyard is around 40,000 bottles.
Sales are directly online and via independent retailers, hotels and restaurants such as The Three Chimneys on Skye and the National Trust’s Clivedon House.
But while the wine is the cornerstone, prosperity lies too in the other revenue streams leading from it.
Following £4million of investment from the sale of a previous family business, Ashling Park has now diversified into a wine tourism centre where, along with a tasting room and terrace, luxury lodges made from local timber by Will Hardie of Channel 4’s Amazing Spaces have just opened.
“We also have 50 bee hives, run a keepers’ day course and sell candles, honey and soaps,” says Gardner. “We’re making gin from our grapes’ waste products, developing an gin school and a 360 degree experience room to tell our vine to wine story. Being close to Goodwood we have designed the room to allow cars to be driven inside for launches.”
A new red wine is being developed and recently appointed chefs are now conjuring creative plates from local ingredients and include a gin-marinated trout, homemade bread baked with yeast from the fermented grapes and, of course, stuffed vine leaves.
Ashling Park’s stunning location and precious habitat required satisfying three years of nature surveys before the business got the go-ahead. Covid has now set it back a year. “We used the time to think creatively and plan,” adds Gardner who is forecasting a £250,000 turnover in 2022 and expansion of the 20-strong team.
“Every day is a school day for me, the learning has been that intense,” she says. “Our doors are open to the world.”
Ashling Park’s wines are from £13.50 and lodge stays from £225), look out for events and offers celebrating English wines organised by trade association WineGB, English Wine Week runs from June 19-27.