Interview With A Winemaker – Will Perkins
15th September 2023
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 Will Perkins, an amazing Winemaker from England, let’s discover a little about his time in the English Wine Industry.
Tell Us About Yourself
“I grew up just outside of Winchester, Hampshire, and have very deep roots and fond memories of formative years here.
I’m a lover of the outdoors and immersing in nature, and a thirst for creative expression, all aspects that make farming and winemaking resonate so strongly with me.
With experience in the UK, South Africa, Spain, California, New Zealand, Australia, and Champagne, I revel in drawing inspiration from pioneering projects across the globe. The people and the philosophies are all indelibly etched and now interwoven as prominent threads of my fabric and approach. They have offered perspectives anew, helped deepen the wonder of constant learning, and re-affirmed the importance of never stopping the questioning. A stoking of curiosity that shines ever bright. And, most importantly, my travels have enabled me to forge some lifelong friendships across the globe.”
What Inspired You To Become A Winemaker?
“Going back 16 years, I was incredibly fortunate to start working in a wonderful local vineyard project under the wing of a very passionate Vineyard Manager and encounter some hugely inspiring people, many of whom are still my closest friends.
Then going on to study History, Politics and Spanish at university in Cape Town, a career in English viticulture wasn’t hugely on my radar.
Fortuitously, a UK harvest cellarhand position presented itself in 2013, followed by a full-time role as Assistant Winemaker and a degree in Viticulture & Oenology.
After 5 fantastic years there, a more concerted stint abroad lay ahead; an unrelenting quest to explore, to experiment, to experience further afield.
An unbelievable opportunity then arose in 2022 to join Pinglestone Estate, the English project under the Vranken-Pommery portfolio. A new frontier and an intersecting of immense history and expansive innovation. A 40-hectare vineyard site, planted on a 360° compass. 20 individual parcels weaving an exceptional tapestry of potential and opportunity. A focus on biodiversity and dialling into the play of nature, the idiosyncrasies of sites and micro-pockets of soil, our Louis Pommery sparkling wines strive to embody these nuances.
Standing at the top of our premium Chardonnay block at Fork Road and looking down on the football pitch I used to play on aged 5, is a brilliant reminder every day of how special this project truly is.
A returning to the pocket of paradise in Hampshire that reverberates so strongly and has given me so much.
A reuniting with the very same Vineyard Manager, Jim Bowerman, who helped sow the seed in me almost two decades ago.
A reconnecting with land and community that runs through my Being.
For life is by no means linear, and this circle seems to have rounded itself fittingly.
I went away as a ‘winemaker’ but have returned as a ‘farmer’. It’s a mentality shift.”
As A Winemaker, What Has Been Your Hardest Obstacle To Overcome In Producing Wine?
Learning to allow ego to recede and in its place opening up space for exploration, opportunity, adventure and the wisdom of the unknown has been an invaluable lesson.
Communing with nature on a daily basis has been an incredible teacher in this regard, forever humbling and re-grounding.
Sadly for too many, especially in our industry, ego becomes the driver behind why they do what they do. However, getting out of your own way and allowing nature to take centre stage is when true expressions of land and place come to the fore.”
What Part Of The Wine Making Process Do You Enjoy The Most?
“Working with nature every single day. Connection with land, community, and people.”
How Do You See the Future Of English Sparkling Wine?
“There are some remarkable wines being produced here and I’m hugely excited by the future of English Sparkling Wine.
Its potential is immense, but that potential remains hypothetical if it isn’t harnessed and explored in a considered yet expansive manner. Its scope will be stymied when driven by ego and premature decisions are crowbarred in.
The future of English Sparkling Wine will continue to be incredibly bright if it choses to retain integrity and have confidence in being itself, rather than imitating others. Draw inspiration and knowledge from other regions, for sure. Learn from the trials and tribulations of what other regions have done, but don’t constrain yourself by imposing unnecessary restrictions that may stifle creativity, and true expressions of place.
UK regions are merely political boundaries rather than geological or topographical. It speaks volumes as to the focal point of that approach, whereby soil characteristics and identity of place still largely play second fiddle. I feel this is an area of exploration for the industry.
Domestic ‘base wine’ tastings would be advantageous, as the industry looks to dial into the nuances of regions. How can a region state “this is what we are, these are our characteristics” at such a nascent stage of its existence when it hasn’t benchmarked itself against other regions domestically?
Premature segmentation is a slippery slope.”
Where’s The Most Memorable Place You’ve Enjoyed A Glass of Bubbly?
“Sat around the firepit at The Chennels’ house in South Africa, after my brother and his best mates had just finished cycling from London to Cape Town. The place is like a sanctuary, has a very special energy to it.”
Thank you Will, 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 Will Perkins. Glass of Bubbly was granted permission to use them.
Champagne and Sparkling Wine Writer, Focused on Bringing the Exciting and Fascinating World of Bubbly to You.