Steven Spurrier, who provided the World of Wine its Cinderella moment with the dramatic playoff known as the ‘Judgement of Paris’ in 1976, recently celebrated his 70th birthday with a splendidly joyous event in Dorset.
The man who bought the Wines of the World into the World of Wine has not finished surprising us all just yet.
Steven’s latest bout of lateral applied thought has involved meticulously removing the charmingly quaint population of sheep, (he is fortunate that sheep do not live in caravans), from the superbly exposed amphitheatre shaped hillside directly above the church of Litton Cheney, itself a storybook like village on the Dorset coast outside Bridport. France is nowhere in sight.
Cheeky enough, you might think, to have removed his wife’s livestock, but this transformation was to involve convincing Bella Spurrier, who is clearly running for Sainthood, to learn to drive a tractor & to plant 3,5 hectars of vines there where once her lambs learnt to do the Cha-Cha.
Steven is convinced that the band of Kimmeridgian soil, so fundamental to the quality of the wines of Chablis & Champagne and that originates here, will be the key justification for his bold & brutal act. The rest is down to Global Warming, for even in the South of England the sun comes out on Sunday.
The Bride Valley Vineyard, still in its infancy, will harvest its first few grapes in October 2011, from ’3rd leaf’ vines of Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier & Chardonnay. Steven’s aim is to make a classy, up market ‘Methode Champenois’ and, based on the evidence currently visible in his beautiful vineyard, will succeed brilliantly.
The three year Chardonnay vines look particularly happy, clearly having established themselves in a manner not unlike the French community of South Kensington. While the crop from these young vines seemed modest this year, I am sure there would have been eager takers of these healthy grapes across the English Channel.
Steven & Bella plan to plant a further 1,5 hectares over the next couple of years, giving the production 60% Chardonnay with an even split between Pinot Meunier & Pinot Noir.
I wonder if, 950 years after ‘all that’, Spurrier the Great shall not remove his Crown Caps & head back to the Continent to do battle once more. The man of whom it has been said “definitively ended the 100 years war”, may just be about to start a new one.