The Apprentice (without Lord Sugar)

27 09 2016

Continuing my tour of a few English vineyards, I popped into Hattingley Valley to meet Director and Winemaker Emma Rice and new Apprentice Zoe Driver. I was wearing my Worshipful Company of Vintners’ hat today as they are funding Zoe’s courses at Plumpton over the next couple of years. Zoe started on 1st August so it was a good time to visit her before the harvest starts tomorrow!

Zoe, 24, studied English and Drama at university and then spent six months at Domaine Chandon in Yarra Valley, Australia. She was soon completely hooked and on her return to the UK was looking for jobs in the wine industry when she spotted the advert. Emma said they had received a large number of applications but what stood out on Emma’s was her obvious interest, motivation and proactive attitude – plus an excellent reference from Domaine Chandon. 

Her first days were spent on the disgorging line for the English sparkling wines and during the last two months she’s been getting to know the vineyards and winery. She’s very fortunate to have Emma as a mentor and has really enjoyed being part of the team. Zoe has obviously learnt a lot already but her course at Plumpton will help enormously.

Her new-found skills will be put to the test from tomorrow as the first parcels of Pinot Noir Precoce are picked.

Some of this will no doubt find its way into Hattingley Valley’s Sparkling Rose. This happened to be my favourite of the wines tasted. The 2013 has 5% PN Precoce, 59% Pinot Noir and 36% Pinot Meunier and 18 months on lees. Fashionably pale but with proper red fruit flavour, this is very pretty with a creamy mousse. I can see why it has won so many medals.

I actually found myself wishing I could swap places with Zoe. For the last 30 years, I have been used to wine being produced abroad, somewhere I had to travel to, now I find it’s on the doorstep and it’s very exciting…img_5279img_5296



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