At their family-owned Sussex vineyard, Fox and Fox Wine celebrate the varieties of grape that they grow and are huge ambassadors for the English sparkling wine
Article by Catherine Ferguson
Jonica Fox, viticulturalist and oenologist at Fox and Fox Wine, paints the most divine picture of their Sussex vineyards. A ‘Boutique Grower Producer of English Sparkling wines’ she tells of 30 acres of classic champagne varieties sitting on the ancient hilltop village of Mayfield, amongst rolling hills and woodlands.
At their family-owned vineyard, they celebrate the varieties of grape that they grow and are currently England’s only producer of a Pinot Gris-based sparkling wine and a Pinot Meunier-based Blanc de Noirs. Sampling Fox and Fox’s Mosaic Brut was an absolute pleasure. They describe the Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier and Chardonnay blend as an “anytime bubbly,” and I can’t argue with that. There’s a wonderful peachy nose and a perfectly creamy mousse, topped off with a long buttered toast finish. I really could sip it anytime.
With the Fizz Festival just around the corner, I caught up with Jonica as she looks forward to heading North, for what she calls the “best and friendliest place to meet produces and taste a great range of sparkling wines and Champagnes.”
Jonica is a huge ambassador for the English sparkling wine scene. “I think the quality of what we produce in England and Wales has taken our fellow Brits by storm,” she told me. “It’s always great to have really special local produce and even better when it’s so quickly recognised as world class. There’s something extraordinary about a new sector growing so quickly and to such a high standard, which makes all of us pioneers. What I really love is that for us, it’s a genuine team effort.”
Fiercely proud that Fox and Fox only make wine from their own grapes and always stay true to their roots, Jonica explains how hard they work to grow good grapes, “by that, I mean ripe grapes full of flavour that express the taste of each variety. I think that’s why we love making single variety sparkling wines – each one suits a different mood or moment, but they are all true to themselves. We believe in minimal manipulation in the winery – we respect our raw material.”
Despite multiple Gold medals at the International Wine and Spirits Challenge and from Champagne and Sparkling Wines of the World, Jonica still feels that their greatest accolade is when their customers tell them how much they love the wine or buy it again and again. “Being told our wine is a favourite really does make me choke up.”
Jonica describes Mayfield with wistful love, “the particularly ancient soils, exposed when the chalk dome that covered the High Weald eroded millennia ago leaving the North and South Downs as bordering chalk-lands to our clays, clay loams and greensands. We benefit from a local microclimate which keeps the bulk of the rain-bearing westerly winds off us.”
Fox and Fox are very excited about the new field full of Chardonnay and Pinot Meunier that they’ve just planted but are even more jubilant about what we can expect from the 2018 vintage after such a glorious summer. “Optimists are saying that 2018 sets the benchmark for wonderful summers to come,” says Jonica, “the more cynical are already referring to it as a once in a lifetime result. Either way, this year the grapes are breaking records with best-ever sugar levels and an abundance of quality and quantity. This harvest has been full of the promise of some really good wines, rich flavours rounded and generous with enough acidity for elegance and balance. This year we haven’t just been picking grapes, we’ve been picking happiness.”
Fox and Fox’s bottles full of happiness are available at www.foxandfox.wine and Jonica will be showcasing them at the Fizz Festival in Knutsford, Cheshire, November 17th and 18th. Tickets with a 15 per cent discount are available for Riddle Readers at www.thefizzfestival.com/cheshire using the code ‘riddlefizz’.