Simpsons - Ruth and Charles Simpson
"A husband and wife team living the dream."
How did you get started out in the industry?
We have been making award-winning wines at Domaine de Sainte Rose, our stunning, southern French property, for the past 16 years. In 2014 we brought our expertise and savoir-faire back to the UK establishing Simpsons Wine Estate in Barham, Kent, with an aspiration to create the finest quality Method Traditional English sparkling wine. We laid down our roots amidst the pristine beauty of the Elham Valley - an unspoilt seam in the North Downs of Kent where the contours of the land, the climate and the soil could scarcely be improved upon for viticulture.
What does a typical day at work look like for you?
As a husband and wife team living the dream, we share all duties and responsibilities equally, across both our wine businesses, in France and the UK. The wonderful aspect of what we do for a living is that there is no typical day. We touch everything, from farming the vines, to wine production, to marketing, sales and finance.
What is the most hands-on element of your job?
We have built two wine businesses from scratch in two different countries and at some point have been hands on with every element of each business, from the grape to the glass and beyond. The two most enjoyable elements of our job are hand-picking the grapes during harvest and bringing them into the winery, and the other is empowering and developing the people who work for us.
What is your proudest achievement to date?
We will launch our first sparkling wines in late 2018, but are immensely proud that our first still English Chardonnay, which was released in 2017, is now being poured in a number of Michelin starred restaurants.
If you didn’t do this, what do you think you would both be doing?
Prior to starting our French wine business in 2002, Charles worked in the Pharmaceutical industry and Ruth in the Humanitarian sector. It is likely that we would both still be working in these areas had we not chosen the path less travelled. That was 16 years ago and we have never looked back.
Tell us something surprising about yourselves.
Charles plays rock guitar and is lead singer in a French rock band and Ruth has alcohol in the blood being a 5th generation descendant of William Grant of Scottish whisky fame!
Describe your favourite wine and food pairing.
Our very own Roman Road Chardonnay 2016 served perfectly chilled with fresh Whitstable oysters!
What is special/unique about your brand?
Our UK project is called Simpsons Wine Estate so we are the brand. We personally put our name behind everything that we do, which is a very personal stamp of authenticity. We feel that we’ve earned the right to do this having made award-winning wine in France and exported our wines around the world for 16 years. We have a strong belief in provenance and only make wine from our own estate-grown grapes. As a husband and wife team, everything is shared 50/50 and family is at the centre of all that we do and our responsibility as parents to two girls, owners of two dogs and two horses is equally important. Together we are building a family business, a footprint for our girls, and hopefully for generations to come.
What distinguishes your vineyard from the others in the partnership?
We are the most easterly vineyard of the group with a very unique maritime climate. The coastal towns of Whitstable (N), Sandwich (E) and Dover (S) are all within 10 miles of our vineyards. Our winery is also the only one that has a helter skelter slide, which provides a fun and memorable post- tasting exit from the property!
Tell us about your location in Kent.
Simpsons Wine Estate is situated on the frontier with Europe and is nine miles from the iconic White Cliffs of Dover, whose chalk terroir provides our raison d’être. The vineyards occupy glorious positions on the sunny, sheltered slopes of the Barham Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, protected from the whimsy of the Englisih climate by ancient woodland and anchored in the chalky soils so highly revered in the world of sparkling wine.