Monday 21 June 2021 12:36 pm

Meet the youngest professional winemaker in the UK

At 25, Tommy Grimshaw is perhaps the youngest professional winemaker in the UK. His office is at Crawthorne Farm, part of the 1,000 hectare Langham Agricultural Estate around the Grade 1 listed Melcombe Manor House in Dorset.

“We take a low intervention approach to both grape growing and wine production, meaning that all of our base wines go through spontaneous, wild fermentation and they are not fined or filtered,” explains Grimshaw. “In the vineyards we use minimal sprays and encourage strong biodiversity. We are constantly striving to minimise our environmental impact and produce honest wines that reflect our terroir. We were named Sparkling Wine Producer of the Year at the IWSC 2020.“

Twelve hectares are now planted with Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier, located on a sheltered south-facing slope 90 metres above sea level. “The soil consists of a shallow clay loam, containing flint, over deep Cretaceous chalk. We strongly believe that our chalk soils bring a fresh, saline character to our wines.”

It was Justin Langham who turned his father’s small hobby vineyard into a commercial venture and a world-class wine estate. Langham’s portfolio now comprises Corallian Classic Cuvée Base Vintage: 2018 with 17% Reserve Wine, Culver Classic Cuvée Base Vintage: 2018 with 11% Reserve Wine (“Raspberry yoghurt and Pink Lady Apple dominate, but a subtle salinity and Danish pastry bring the wine together well,” according to Grimshaw), and Rosé 2017 Vintage (“Aromas of rhubarb crumble, cherry, cranberry and raspberry compote”).

Born in Torbay and brought up in Totnes, Grimshaw is the son of a social worker and photographer. “I’m mostly inspired by the top grower producers of Champagne,” he says, “although I take inspiration from anywhere and everywhere. My favourite wines outside of the UK are probably Nebbiolo from Valtellina. Ar.Pe.Pe makes some great examples of red, with Grumello my favourite. For whites, I often get drawn into Assyrtiko, and the Gaia Wild Ferment from Santorini is always a good option.

The winemaker team at Langham
The team at Langham Wine Estate

“Outside of wine-making I love to cook. We have some world class produce on our doorstep in the south-west. Portland crab sandwich and our Corallian is always a winner. My girlfriend and I often pop down to Chesil Beach to have a glass. Our fizz happens to go very well with the local fish and chips too.”

 After a season of labelling and bottling wine as a summer job, Grimshaw developed a love for English wine and left school to work a harvest at Devon’s Sharpham Vineyard, where he spent six years, becoming assistant winemaker. He joined the team at Langham in January 2019 as Assistant Winemaker, working with Daniel Ham.

“Daniel and Duncan Schwab at Sharpham have influenced me greatly. Duncan opened the door to me when I failed school. Other than Sharpham and Offbeat, British wine producers I admire include Charlie Herring in Hampshire, Kent’s Westwell and  Will Davenport and the Goring family’s Wiston Estate in west Sussex. Charlie Brown at Sharpham is another young winemaker I look up to.”

Grimshaw took on the role of Head Winemaker in January 2020 and plans to continue and develop the ethos of minimal manipulation. “Not because of the growing trend in ‘natural’ wine but purely based on the complexity and quality of the end product.

“Our vineyard team meticulously cares for each vine all year round and I feel that it would be unjust to take this excellent fruit and turn it into something that does not reflect the vineyard. Intervention is inevitable when creating a traditional method sparkling wine and intervening isn’t a sin by any means but I take great pride in creating complex base wine parcels by not filtering, fining or adding cultured yeast for the primary ferment. 

“Using a variety of oak vessels that vary in size, age and prior use, along with some stainless steel, allows us to have a vast range of different wine parcels to blend with, which for me, is one of the most exciting things about our wine because it creates layers and complexity.”

Langham Reserve Blanc de Blancs 2015 was Supreme Champion of the Wine GB Awards 2019. At the IWSC 2020, five of its sparkling wines won gold or silver. “This year, our wines received medals again with our Sparkling Rose 2017 being the only English rose to get gold. Being the youngest doesn’t make you the best. I have a long way to go and always aim to learn from others and improve.”

• For more information go to the Langham Wine Estate website here.