Crouch Ridge Estate – Interview With Ross and Sam Lonergan

14th June 2024

Crouch Ridge Estate Ross and Sam Lonergan

There is no denying that English Sparkling Wine is on the rise, becoming an undeniable contender to Traditional Method Sparkling Wines around the world. To the English, it’s becoming a fan favourite and a go-to Glass of Bubbly, its quality is improving year on year and thanks to innovators and those willing to follow their dreams, the choice of English Sparkling Wine is expanding.

In this exclusive feature we speak with Ross Lonergan and Sam Lonergan, from Crouch Ridge Estate, in Chelmsford, England, let’s find out a little about their lives in the English wine industry.

It’s Great To Speak With You, Ross & Sam, Can You Tell Us A Little About Yourself & Your Incredible Journey Into The Wine Industry?

Ross and Sam- “We are both 5th generation farmers, the Estate at Althorne has changed and diversified over the last 200 years in order to remain viable; originally the family came down by train from Lancaster with their dairy cows, stopping the train on route to milk the cows, When the milk market crashed the family moved the farm from dairy cows to beef cattle followed by growing wheat for bread and barley for malting. Mike and Mal, Sam’s parents changed the parlour and dairy sheds at the Farm into short term holiday accommodation, so as a family, we have never sat still, always looking to keep the Estate for the next generation.  

In 2008, Sam had just finished her Sustainable Tourism Masters degree and after a trip to the vineyards in South Africa, we wondered whether this could be done on our farm in the UK.  English Sparkling wine was beginning to get some attention and with Ross’ background in Agriculture and Sam’s love of English Sparkling wine the decision was made to plant the Vineyard at Althorne, and so the journey began…”

Do You Remember Your First Experience With Sparkling Wine? When It Was And What Kind Of Wine It Was?

Ross – “My first experience with sparkling wine was at my grandmother’s house, she was throwing a Christmas party many years ago, and Babycham (Sparkling Perry for those who are too young to know) was all the rage, and I was given one of those with eggnog, it was sweet, so went down very easily, I do not remember much after that, but I think my parents let me drink it so I would have a lie in on Christmas day.”

Sam – “At my cousin’s wedding, I loved the tiny bubbles in the delicate flute glass and the fruit notes and the way it made my cheeks tinge.”

How Rewarding Is Running Your Own English Wine Estate?

Ross – “It is rewarding on several levels, to start with, it is the start of something new, France has been doing this for over 200 years, USA over 100 years, and other parts of the world a similar time, but for the UK, the industry is still in its infancy, which is reflected in the diverse range of grapes grown in England, and the range of wine produced.

England is pushing which grape varieties can be produced, and as a result the wine that can be made, we are not restricted like other countries and their regions.

As I say to people all the time, this is a good news story for England and more particularly Essex, we do not have the best image in the UK, but having vineyards and making the highest quality wine in the UK will put this area on the map as a destination, and not for all the usual reasons.”

Sam- “I love looking out over our Vineyards watching our beautiful vines grow & see the grapes on the vines harvested before they go to the winery where the magic begins and the creation of Crouch Ridge Estate fine wines happens, and then of course the icing on the cake Drinking our own label is so rewarding!”

How Challenging Is Running Your Own English Wine Estate?

Ross – “Like any changes in your daily business it takes time to adjust and work out what works and what does not, and like anything new you generally learn from your mistakes, and we have made plenty, however being in one of the best growing areas in the United Kingdom we generally get away with some of the major problems other wine regions have growing the grapes such as frost damage, or disease pressure.”

Sam- “Council Planning Department –People visit a vineyard because it is a vineyard, need I say more!”

When It Comes To Pairing Sparkling Wine With Food, Do You Have Any Favourite Combinations That You Would Personally Recommend?

Ross- “My favourite combination when pairing with Sparkling wine is the classic, but as we have locally grown oysters in Mersea, we have some lovely fresh oysters that pair brilliantly with our Cuvee.”

Sam- “Bubbles & Batter. I love British Fish & Chips which matches perfectly with our Blanc de Blancs, the freshness and acidity of this wine cuts through the fats.”

What Future Plans Can Enthusiasts Of Crouch Ridge Look Forward To In The Coming Years?

“With the United Kingdom wine industry expanding very quickly, Projections indicate that production in England and Wales will soar to between 25 and 29 million bottles by 2032, There will be a lot more competition in the market in the next few years, with larger producers being able to benefit from the scale of production being lower, so as a boutique vineyard, we will look at quality over quantity, more experiences for the wine enthusiasts and more wine stays with our newly renovated accommodation on the Estate. We already offer a range of tour and tasting experiences, so it will be looking at new innovative experiences, and with technology advancing, it may be looking at more interactive experiences at the vineyard.”

Can You Share With Us One Of The Most Memorable Experiences You’ve Enjoyed With A Glass of Bubbly?

Ross and Sam- “Holding our daughter’s wedding at the Vineyard and supplying all the Sparkling and Still wine for the event. It was a lovely day, but being able to supply all the wine from grapes from our Vineyards for the event was a lovely touch”

Thank you Ross & Sam, for sharing your story and experiences with us and we at Glass of Bubbly wish you the very best for the future!

Images belong to Ross Lonergan & Sam Lonergan. Glass of Bubbly was granted permission to use them.

Oliver Walkey

Champagne and Sparkling Wine Writer, Focused on Bringing the Exciting and Fascinating World of Bubbly to You.