Interview With The Winemaker At Ridgeview – Simon Roberts

11th June 2024

Interview With The Winemaker At Ridgeview Simon Roberts

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 Simon Roberts, the incredible head winemaker of Ridgeview, in England, let’s find out a little about his life in the English wine industry.

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

“My journey started nearly 30 years ago, when my father – Mike Roberts MBE – asked me to help plant a vineyard, this was in the spring of 1995. I knew absolutely nothing about farming and even less about winemaking. However, by the end of the summer, I had fallen in love with the farming life and enrolled at Plumpton Winemaking College. After this, I slowly moved from the vineyard into the winery (more out of necessity), and found I had a real passion for winemaking. The evolution of growing something and converting it into something to celebrate – Sparkling wine! – it was amazing.

Later, during a trip to Germany, to a winemaking exhibition with our mentor – Kit Lindlar – we visited a monastic Winemaker. We tasted wines from tanks, vats and barrels late into the night. Occasionally I was asked for my opinion, which I offered, even though at the time I knew very little about wine tasting or winemaking. As we were leaving, the winemaker said to my dad that he should put focus on me as according to him, I have a very good natural palate. This was really the first time I had thought seriously about moving full time into the winery. I then gained more experience in not only our winery but others in England before working at a vintage winery in Australia, Brown Brothers. I returned for the 1999 harvest at Ridgeview and moved full time into the winery. Although England was new to the wine industry, we had very much assimilated to the old world style of winemaking. Upon returning, I wanted to be able to use my experience in Australia and bring their new world technology back with me, using both the old and new ways of working to make our wines the best quality and taste we could.”

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

“There are so many aspects of winemaking I enjoy, both in and out of the winery. Watching people taste your wines for the first time, seeing the sheer joy and amazement is pretty special. Harvest is another exciting time as there’s lots going on. But I think I get the most enjoyment from the blending process, moulding and creating the blends, having something tangible, passing on your creativity. I truly love the whole process, from tasting each tank and barrel, looking at their individual potential, and how they’ll interact with other parcels to then creating a whole and complete wine. We are lucky to have growers all over southern England, each site has such a different flavour profile, allowing us to add layers of complexities to each finished blend.”

After Completing Your Trade Tour Of Japan & Taiwan, Can You Share With Us Any Feedback And Plans For The Future Of Ridgeview In The Asian Markets?

“Asia is a very strong market for us, in fact, Taiwan is our number one overseas export. I have always thought Sparkling wines in general pair so well with Asian food, especially the Japanese and Taiwanese palate. The sweetness and sourness of their food pairs perfectly with the fresh acidity and the strong fruit profile of English sparkling wine. In both Tokyo and Taiwan, the wines were very well received, and we received very positive feedback.

Moving forward, export will still play a significant role for Ridgeview, for now, we want to work closely with our existing distributors and focus on maximising our presence there. In the future, we will certainly look at other new markets in Asia. I think we sit well in the market; our market presence keeps evolving and increasing. One of our distributors is looking to develop an outlet in South Korea, so that will be interesting.”

After An Incredible Harvest In 2023, What Are Your Expectations for The 2023 Vintage?

“It was certainly a high yielding harvest, Ridgeview wines tend to be very fruit driven, accessible wines, which I think the 2023 vintage gave us. It will be interesting to see the ageing potential for this year as the pH was pretty high, for us anyway.

We moved into our new winery space just before the 2023 harvest, so it was a real baptism of fire. A very exciting harvest, to say the least. Considering the summer, the fruit was super clean, rich and intense. A joy to blend. When these wines come to market, I think the consumer will see lots of complex fruit focused wines, a good reflection of the great weather we had at the end of the summer.”

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

“Having just returned from a trade trip to Tokyo and Taiwan, only last week, I can say with some authority as I mentioned before, that Asian cuisine is a great match.

However, the Sparkling Red Reserve is the perfect wine for Sunday roast and the Oak Reserve goes perfectly with Christmas Dinner. Both wines have big characters and stand up to the robustness of the roast dinner.

The easy pairing for our Blanc de Blancs is Dover Sole, great with the meaty white fish and the rich creamy sauce, but my ideal pairing is sitting on the beach at Shoreham-By-Sea, having fish and chips.

I hosted a dinner at a very trendy restaurant in Charleston, Carolina, in the US and the chef paired the Blanc de Noirs with barbequed shiitake mushrooms in a bone marrow jus. This was one of the best food and wine pairings using our wines that I’ve tried in a long time, very memorable.

A good chef friend of ours – Matt Gillan – pairs our Blanc de Noirs with a Beetroot tartare. The earthiness of the beetroot sits really well with the richness of the Pinot Noir and the savoury texture of the Meunier. Both dishes show how versatile a Blanc de Noirs can be.”

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

“A very memorable moment was in LA in 2019. We were showing our wines at a sparkling wine festival, so we were able to taste some amazing wines. The finale of the festival was a big banquet, where everyone had to bring something special to share. Dan – the organiser – was on my table and had brought a magnum of Roderer Crystal 1971. I can still remember how my first sip tasted, incredibly fresh, with so much fruit yet rich and complex. One of the best wines I have tasted.

Thank you Simon, 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 Simon Roberts & Ridgeview. 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.