Interview With The Winemaker, Director & CEO of Black Chalk Wine – Jacob Leadley

5th April 2024

Interview With The Winemaker Director & CEO of Black Chalk Wine Jacob Leadley

There is no denying that English Sparkling Wine is on the rise, becoming an undeniable contender to Champagne, and although it still has some way to go in convincing the rest of the world, to the English, it’s becoming a fan favourite and a go-to Glass of Bubbly, it’s quality is improving with each year and thanks to innovators and those willing to follow their dreams, the choice of English Sparkling Wine is expanding.

In this feature we speak with Jacob Leadley, the incredible Winemaker, Director & CEO of Black Chalk Wine from England, let’s discover a little about his time in the Wine Industry.

Tell Us About Yourself & How Did You Become Involved In The Wine Industry?

“Born in Limerick Ireland but very much raised in the North East of England near Middlesbrough (a long suffering Boro fan). I feel lucky to have grown up on the edge of the North Yorkshire Moors in a small seaside town Saltburn-by-the-Sea. It is not a part of the world full of opportunities so I left for university only to leave after two years. I walked into a job centre and got a job at Barclays Bank in Liverpool in 2001 and 2 years later I was working for Bank of America in Treasury and Risk Management in Canary Wharf. Over the next 6 years, I spent time with Lehmans and Morgan Stanley. It was a little dull but I did enjoy being in London.

While spending some time travelling I encountered some amazing vineyards and wines. On my return to the UK in 2008 I became aware of the growing English wine industry and quickly made a decision to enrol at Plumpton College and explore what might be possible. I started the FdSc in September 2009. I started at Hattingley Valley in 2011 as an Associate Winemaker and was promoted to Winemaker in 2015. I left after 7 eventful and successful years to focus on Black Chalk full time.”

What Influenced You To Create Black Chalk Wine, and Start Producing Your Own English Sparkling Wines?

“Black Chalk was created from a desire to create something with focus, purity and precision. The focus being the chalklands of Hampshire, the purity of fruit these soils provide and the precision the wines can offer with the right focus.”

What Has Been Your Hardest Obstacle To Overcome In Producing English Sparkling Wine?

“Creating a brand, a new range of wines, finding a home for the business, raising investment, dealing with Covid while building a winery, finding a market for the wines. None of it is easy. All of it is full of new challenges. But like anything you just take one step at a time.”

How Do You See The Future Of English Sparkling Wine?

“I get asked this a lot. The quick three word answer is – Global, Huge, Exciting”

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

“I get more out of the winemaking process than anything else. Building a wine is simply the most creative thing I think I could do and it brings me so much joy to share that with people who feel equally as passionate about the process. I enjoy the challenges of running the business and in my role as CEO/Winemaker/Sales Manager I have to wear a number of hats but the one I wouldn’t give up is the hands on winemaking. The physical aspects of the job, the hard work, the late nights and long hours are all part of that creative process, knowing the wines inside out, the good and the bad. The idea of being a desk based or consultant winemaker for instance sounds very dull and disconnected.”

Where’s The Most Memorable Place You’ve Enjoyed A Glass of Bubbly?

“Now that I have worked in the industry for 13 years I am lucky enough to have been able to enjoy Black Chalk wines from Kyoto in the company of Geisha to a roof terrace on the 42nd floor in Manhattan. However, the best glass of bubbly is always at harvest lunches in the winery. We pop up a table each day during harvest and all sit down together to enjoy an amazing lunch and a bottle or two. A special time of year with a special group of people.”

Thank you Jacob, 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 Jacob Leadley. 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.