Hampshire-based wine estate, Black Chalk, has released a new tier of premium sparkling wines. 

The wines – “Paragon” and “Inversion” – are both from the acclaimed 2020 vintage, the year Black Chalk became estate status and finalised the build of its winery.  The step up in quality marks a significant moment for what is a relatively small English wine producer.  The new wines, which are technically focused, with careful clonal, yeast strain and oak selections, and a minimal intervention approach, (no malolactic and no fining) show the extraordinary potential and purity of Hampshire fruit, specifically from Black Chalk’s Test Valley site. The wines will both retail at £65 and will be available via the Black Chalk website and their Tasting Room shop.

Paragon, a 2020 Blanc de Blancs and Inversion, a 2020 Blanc de Noirs, are both made from grapes selected from one of Black Chalk’s four sites; the 4.6ha Upper Levels vineyard. Upper Levels has an easterly aspect and is a relatively warm site, offering protection from frost and even ripening across the season. Chardonnay is planted to the west, Pinot Meunier in the middle and Pinot Noir to the east. The vineyard – along with the three other Black Chalk sites – are managed with biodiversity in mind, with native flora and fauna encouraged and a small herd of sheep employed to keep weeds down and fertilise the soil. 

Paragon is sourced from four Chardonnay clones (95, 121, 76 and 131).  Specialist Burgundian yeasts, including VL1 (for particularly elegant Chardonnay) and CX9 (for complex, premium Chardonnay) were selected. The grapes were hand-harvested and whole bunch pressed. Fermentation is in stainless steel (54%) and new Tonnellerie Rousseau oak cask (46%), followed by 26 months on the lees. The wine spends a minimum of six months in the cellar post disgorgement, which took place in July 2023.

Inversion is a blend of Pinot Noir (83%) and Pinot Meunier (17%), sourced from four Pinot clones (777, 386, 521, 817).  777 – a particularly powerful Pinot Noir clone – makes up two thirds of the blend; the numbers feature prominently on the label. The specialist Burgundian yeast, Spark, is used, a strain specifically selected for its aromatic delicacy. Fermentation was in stainless steel (97%) and five-year-old Burgundian oak barrels (3%). The wine spent 26 months on lees, with a minimum of six months post-disgorgement ageing.  Disgorgement took place in July 2023.

Co-founder, Winemaker and CEO, Jacob Leadley said: “The 2020 vintage was a special one for many reasons here at Black Chalk, including the creation of these two new wines. It was an opportunity for the winemaking team to explore the potential of our new vineyards and have creative freedom in how we wanted to craft these two classic sparkling wine styles.

“My fellow winemaker Zoë Driver and I spent a huge amount of time exploring vineyards, clones, yeast and oak inclusion in both wines before agreeing on two blends which result in an expression that highlights the quality and precision of the fruit.  Inversion is all about highlighting the power of the PN 777 clone. For Paragon, it’s the subtle use of oak, chosen to provide a balance to the elegance and fruit profile of the Chardonnay. Producing wines that demonstrate what is possible in England is at the heart of what we do, and we feel these two wines do that in bucket loads.”

Production for the first vintage is small: Paragon – 3,535 bottles; Inversion – 1,939 bottles.