Meet The Winemaker, Sam Lindo – Camel Valley

30th September 2015

Meet The Winemaker

In our second article we meet Sam Lindo, the rising star of Camel Valley vineyard and son of founder Bob Lindo, a retired RAF pilot, who with his wife panted the first vines her in 1989.  For those of you that are familiar with Camel Valley you’ll know that over the last two decades or so they’ve risen to prominence and taken the English Wine scene by storm with their skillful winemaking; winning award after prestigious award, especially for sparkling wines.  Whilst still a family business, with father, son and mum involved in the vineyards, in recent years it has been Sam that has been at the forefront, making the recent award winners and carving his niche as one of England’s kingly winemakers.

Camel Valley has been described, perhaps unsurprisingly, as the UK’s number one estate vineyard.

We put our probing questions to Sam and here are the answers we received.

How long have you been a winemaker?
I was born in a barrel, only kidding. Officially 10 years but I have always been doing something in the winery.

Where did you learn your craft? (Not just formal education but who influenced you and why?)
From my Dad, I have had no formal training and nor has he.

Tell us about your winemaking travels and experiences?
I have worked one vintage in New Zealand and visited Australia. Big wineries always impressed me until I started going to France. Multigenerational wineries are much more impressive to me now.

Do you strive for a style or an ideal that people might relate to?  Or are you your own sort of winemaker?
In a very French way we just look after the grapes and the wines tastes the way they do because of the climate.  There isn’t really a lot we can do which is so exciting. Each harvest will be different and we just have to roll with it. Our job is to do each small task perfectly.

What makes the grapes from your vineyards so special?
We have an amazing acidity that you cannot get anywhere else in the world. It really lifts the wines and is perfect for sparkling.  The grapes have a very delicate character and this means the wines will always drink differently as you get through the bottle, there are no over powering characters.

Are there special places or vines in your vineyards that really adds something to your wines? 
All of our grapes are grown on loam soil, this means we get a much better type of acidity and a little more fruit in the wine.

Do you do anything special in your winemaking process that is just a little different and produces something a bit special?
We crush all of our grapes that go into the sparkling. This is not allowed in Champagne. This gives extra fruit and this is also how we make our pink sparkling.

What’s your motivation for making wines? 
It’s a very exciting process with a series of challenges that are all very satisfying to overcome. It is great to serve people something you have made. People find it amazing when they think about this.

What do you think the future climate holds for your vines and your wines?
Things have definitely warmed up and what this has meant is an increase in average yields but no change in character just yet. We will see what happens and roll with it.

What in your personal view, do you think, sets English and Welsh sparkling wines apart from the rest of the world?
All the English producers have their different approach to how they make their wines but there is one underlying character we all have in our wines, the beautiful acidity. Our grapes are also on the vines for 30-40 days longer than Champagne and this means we have a high level of protein and so we get better bubbles.

Dosage is sometimes a point of contention. Do you have a view? Is less more? 
Always make the wine balanced. This may mean more or less. For me we have an opportunity to add more dosage in England as we have a higher acidity. This makes the wine moreish. Champagne has only been lowering the dosage because their climate is warming up and they are getting a lower acidity. The story is told differently and we shouldn’t try to match this, we have different wine. Nature may taste amazing but it is not drinkable unless the wine is super low in acidity.

What particular characteristics (or terroir) do you think your vineyards imparts into your wines?  Do different parcels work a different magic on your sparkling wines? 
We make wines from a range of different sites and I think this is what makes our winemaking a success. Each year different varieties and sites will do differently.

Any views or points you’d want to make on vintage vs non-vintage?
We do not get enough vintage variation to justify making multi-vintage sparkling wines. We are where Champagne was in the 1950s before they made too much, it is all vintage.

What would you like to communicate about you and your wines to the drinker?
The wines do speak for themselves to anyone. Mainly that they are English and we are English. I don’t think I could sum up any better than that.

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Glass of Bubbly

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