Emma Rice, Director and Winemaker, Hattingley Valley

During 2018 I've visited Hattingley Valley Wine twice, once to meet award winning Emma & her team to photograph for this blog and then as part of an assignment for a client.

When I first arrived at Hattingley Valley I wasn't aware of the scale of the operation until I entered the yard which forms the centre of the site; on three sides are winery, fermentation tanks, storage tanks, cellar storage and more presses.

Emma has planned for harvest for months, garnering information from clients - I'm not sure whether the estimates were accurate, but on my recent visit the team at Hattingley Valley were on target to process close to 700 tonnes of grapes from the same acreage as 2017. In 2017 Emma and the team processed approximately 200 tonnes!

To give an idea of the scale of the task, the weight of grapes processed during 2018 harvest approximate to that of Christ the Redeemer statue which overlooks Rio de Janeiro, Brazil!

Emma Rice & the 4000 kg Coquard Automatic Tilted Plate Grape Press.

Emma Rice
Director & Winemaker
Hattingley Valley Wine

About the business
Why did you join Hattingley Valley?
I was working freelance for various vineyards and wineries in England, I met Simon Robinson who asked me to build a winery for him. This developed into a full-time job within a few years. I could see that Simon had the vision and desire to do things properly and was prepared to invest to get it right, it has been a rollercoaster ride but well worth it.

What does the business do?
We grow grapes on our vineyard and under management contract on other sites, we make the finest English sparkling wine and sell it across the world. We also make wine for other vineyards who don’t have their own winery. 

What is your favourite product?
Currently, the Rose 2014 is my favourite, but this changes as the wines develop on lees and in bottle. I’m very excited about some of the new wines still quietly siting in the cellar awaiting disgorgement.

What does the future hold?
More of the same, continued growth in production and expansion of our export sales to existing and new markets. 

About your job
Why did you change careers?
I have always been in the wine trade since leaving school, I made the decision to switch to production and specifically winemaking at the age of 28 when I saw Plumpton College featured in one of the wine books I was editing at the time.

What is the best things about your current role?
The varied nature of it. I am in the winery at harvest, then visiting vineyards across the country, tasting and blending our wines, travelling to our export markets and introducing our wines to new customers.

The 2018 harvest shirts sum up the #winemakerslife!
The team unfailingly maintained their enthusiasm & humour, even when loading 4000kg (in excess of 200 crates) of grapes into the press. This press looks big, Coquard make a press with 12000kg capacity.

What have been their biggest highlights/success in your current job?
Winning UK Winemaker of the Year twice, in 2014 and 2016, winning World Champion Vintage Rose in 2014 and World Champion Blanc de Blancs in 2017 at the Champagne and Sparkling Wine World Championships – those were two particular highlights. Then seeing our wine on a shelf in a wine shop in Napa Valley, the region where I spent my first few years after Plumpton.

About your time at Plumpton
What course did you study at Plumpton?
The BSc Viticulture & Oenology.

What was the best thing about studying at Plumpton?
Meeting a diverse group of people who are still friends today. Followed by the practical nature of the course, backed up by the academic theory.

What did Plumpton prepare you for . . . 
Working in a winery cellar – knowing how to use and operate pumps, presses and other kit gave me an advantage in my first vintage abroad.

What is your favourite Plumpton memory? 
Barbecues in the vineyards on practical days.

What does Plumpton do for you now?
Provides us with a great resource of skilled people who are really useful to employ. And provides training and education for our employees. 

The 2018 harvest has been a logistical challenge for everyone involved
- Emma has taken it in her stride.
About you
Where are you from?
Chilgrove, near Chichester in West Sussex, so I haven’t moved very far but I did go via NZ, London, Australia and California to get here! 
What was your previous career?
I was in the wine trade in London working for an importer of burgundy, followed by 3 years as a wine editor for Hugh Johnson’s Pocket Wine Book.

Something about you . . .  
I know what I want and so far have managed to achieve it. Constantly aware that this business is a continual learning process.

What would be your desert island wine, or would you choose another beverage?

If I could choose a variety I’d choose Pinot Noir – it is so versatile in the styles of wine it can make: bubbles, white, rose, reds…. But assuming I wouldn’t have a fridge on the island it would have to be red burgundy.

What is your favourite wine destination?
So many…. But Napa has a special place in my heart. 

Dog, cat, other . . . 
Dog, Westies in particular.

A pleasure to meet you and the team Emma. Thank you for sparing the time from your hectic schedule to be part of Heart of UK Wine.

Coming next on Heart of UK Wine . . . watch this space!

Original photography & blog by Ian Pack - call for bookings or to discuss your next project.

Tel:              +44 7710 814665
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