Kent wine producer: Simpsons
PUBLISHED: 16:42 08 October 2018
Thomas Alexander Photography
We speak to Ruth and Charles Simpson of Simpsons about the winery’s place as one of Kent’s top wine producers
How did you get started out in the industry?
We have been making award-winning wines at Domaine de Sainte Rose, our southern French property, for the past 16 years. In 2014 we brought our expertise to the UK, establishing Simpsons Wine Estate in Barham, with an aspiration to create the finest quality Method Traditional English sparkling wine. We laid down our roots amid the pristine beauty of the Elham Valley, an unspoilt seam in the North Downs of Kent where the contours of the land, the climate and the soil could scarcely be improved upon for viticulture.
Describe a typical day at work
As a husband and wife team living the dream, we share all duties and responsibilities equally, across both our wine businesses, in France and the UK. There is no typical day. We touch everything, from farming the vines, to wine production, to marketing, sales and finance. I also play rock guitar and am lead singer in a French rock band and Ruth has alcohol in her blood, being a fifth-generation descendant of William Grant of Scottish whisky fame!
The most hands-on element of your job?
We have built two wine businesses from scratch in two different countries and at some point have been hands on with every element of each business, from the grape to the glass and beyond. The two most enjoyable elements of our job are hand picking the grapes during harvest and bringing them into the winery, and the other is empowering and developing the people who work for us.
Your proudest achievement to date?
We will launch our first sparkling wines in late 2018, but are immensely proud that our first still English Chardonnay, which was released in 2017, is now being poured in a number of Michelin-starred restaurants.
Your favourite wine and food pairing?
Our very own Roman Road Chardonnay 2016 served perfectly chilled with fresh Whitstable oysters.
What is special about your brand?
Our UK project is called Simpsons Wine Estate so we are the brand. We put our name behind everything we do, which is a very personal stamp of authenticity. We feel that we’ve earned the right to do this having made award-winning wine in France and exported our wines around the world for 16 years. We have a strong belief in provenance and only make wine from our own estate-grown grapes. As a husband and wife team, everything is shared 50/50 and family is at the centre of all that we do and our responsibility as parents to two girls, owners of two dogs and two horses is equally important. Together we are building a family business, a footprint for our girls, and hopefully for generations to come.
What distinguishes your vineyard?
We are the most easterly vineyard of the group with a very unique maritime climate. The coastal towns of Whitstable, Sandwich and Dover are all within 10 miles of our vineyards. Our winery is also the only one that has a helter-skelter slide, which provides a fun and memorable post-tasting exit from the property!