Interview With A Winemaker – Paddy Gaunt

12th May 2023

Interview With A Winemaker Paddy Gaunt

Wine isn’t just made, it’s crafted by the unwavering expertise of a Winemaker, sometimes old traditions are passed down by generations and on other occasions, new people venture into the industry, introducing us to new creations. This series of Winemaker Interviews will help you uncover the vast world and skills of how the artists passionate about wine make the world a bubbly place.

In this feature we speak with Paddy Gaunt, an amazing Winemaker from Chudleigh, England. Let’s discover a little about his time in the English Wine Industry.

Tell Us About Yourself

“Hello, readers! Having been asked by Oliver to provide an insight into the English wine industry, I was more than happy to oblige, with a snapshot of one of the most exciting wine-filled whirlwinds that I have ever experienced. I have been working in the winery team producing Sharpham Wines for a little over four years. Sharpham winery has recently relocated across the river, to the Sandridge Barton Estate. A fantastic move that has allowed us to future-proof the business and create a more sustainable way of working, with another amazing setting for our visitors.

I’m not one to be ruled by my work, and I have a strong belief in enjoying life, creating a balance in which there is variety and exploration as well as some good old-fashioned ‘elbow grease’ hard work. As well as working full-time in the winery, I am an on-call Firefighter, providing cover overnights and weekends. Another great team to be a part of, with a direct contribution to the local community.

In regards to hobbies, I do try and keep my palate fresh, forever tasting and learning about new wines. However, I have also taken a great small project consisting of a 1970 MGB GT. Understanding that this isn’t the most complicated of vehicles to work on, but ALSO understanding that mechanics and patience aren’t my strong points… yet!”

How Did You Become Involved In The Wine Industry?

“I find myself in the young, developing and extremely exciting production side of the English wine industry. Having fallen on my feet in a move to Devon a little over four years ago, the only thing that remains the same on a daily basis is the amazing team that supports Sandridge Barton Wines, The Home of Sharpham Wines.

Working life began with me as a chef, gaining practical experience before studying Culinary Arts in the Peak District for three years. Through this studying, I was always interested in the bigger picture of food pairings working alongside the wine offering. My interest grew from there, and upon completion of my degree, my aim was to specialise within the wine industry. Unsure as to opportunities that were directly available to me at the time, I decided to focus on experience. This transformed into an 18 month global experience consisting of winemaking in Sicily (on the live volcano of Mount Etna!), meeting industry professionals in Europe and South America, and being part of a national tasting with Wines of Brazil. Every aspect of this, helped me develop my understanding within the industry.

Upon my return, I worked with a start-up company which specialised in the imports of Sardinian wine. A really interesting project which opened my eyes to introducing something new to the extremely broad UK market.

Seeking something that was more hands on which involved working in a larger team, I discovered Sharpham. One of the pinnacle businesses in the UK for wine production. Everything fell perfectly and it was the best decision I ever made. A fantastic team, with strong ethics and a drive to create the best wines from our beautiful vineyards in the Dart Valley.”

As A Winemaker, What Has Been Your Hardest Obstacle To Overcome In Producing Wine?

“Sharpham and Sandridge Barton put a lot of work into finding out which varieties and clones to plant, this has made it easier in the long run and has brought us more consistent yields of quantity and quality. One of the obstacles we have is that due to the industry still being young in the UK, anything that we need to purchase comes from abroad. This makes logistics very complicated, as well as language barriers, imports, and costs never really on our side. The financial commitment is always very high early days, but we feel that this is justified if this can raise the quality of the wine in some way.

As a company, we accept that we have good and bad years. This is not something that we try and micro-manage. We welcome the vintage variation and don’t want to take anything away from the story of the wine. We want our customers to taste our wines, and have a taste of the South West. Therefore, yes nature does seem to run it’s own course sometimes, but we aim to work WITH it more than against it.”

How Do You Determine When Your Wine Is Ready To Drink?

“A huge benefit to the wines we produce is the range that we offer. This allows us to always offer a variety of high quality styles. This plan enables us to not be so demand-led and therefore give the wine the time it needs. Most of our wines are produced to be consumed when they are young and fresh. The majority of these are harvested in September/October, blended in February/March, bottled in March/April and then available for sale anytime from June/July.

Our Sparkling wines are a little more complicated. As all of these are produced in the traditional method, the secondary ferment and time on lees is incredibly important for the phenolic make-up of the wine. This is taste-led, and once there is a balance of acidity, autolysis and general phenolics, we will then riddle and disgorge before bottle aging for 6 months prior to release.

Our Pinot Noir Red is a living example of high demand vs limited production. We only produce red wines in the best years, with the best fruit. This pride and passion allow us to hold onto the wine for longer if it needs more time in the barrel or bottle. This wine is in high demand due to its sheer quality and consistency. This will sell out now and again, but when it is on a shelf, it will be the absolute best example of a high quality English red wine that we could produce.”

What Part Of The Wine Making Process Do You Enjoy The Most?

“Tasting is always an interesting time. We do this throughout the year to monitor the wines in the tank and in the barrel, as well as pre-blending, post-blending and to understand the development of wine in bottle. Everyone in the team here has come with different experiences and from a different wine background, this of course brings a difference in palate and opinion. The respect amongst the team to be able to voice all thoughts, plans and concerns are second to none. This allows us to look at the bigger picture of all of our wines, and not get stuck in a little bubble (pardon the pun!).

Harvest is always an absolute blast. There is a great buzz around the site. The winery is filled with the aroma of fresh grape juice, the sound of whatever music the first team member in that morning wants (this varies dramatically!), and a fantastic team that put in such a good shift. These are quite long hours, but welfare is the priority. We always have a great meal at the end of the night, and sometimes taste an old dust-covered bottle from our Wine Library.

Winery work varies all year round. Working within a small team, allows us all to manage every aspect of winemaking. From pressing the grapes, monitoring ferments, blending, barrel management, bottling, disgorging and labelling. There is nothing monotonous about winery work, that’s for sure!”

Thank you Paddy, for sharing your words, knowledge and experience with us and we at Glass of Bubbly wish you the very best for the future!

Images belong to Paddy Gaunt & Sandridge Barton Wines. 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.