Exton Park was first planted in 2003 on the South Downs – Hampshire’s National Park – overlooking Exton village in the Meon valley. At first, just 12 acres were planted with the classic Champagne varieties, using different rootstocks to assess how they influenced the viticulture and final fruit. Gradually, a clear picture emerged of which best suited the terroir – and the owner’s wine-making ambitions.
However, in 2009, shortly after the second site was planted, the vineyard was bought by neighbouring businessman Malcolm Isaac who had recently sold his successful company that supplied local watercress and fresh salads to all the main supermarkets.
He understood the land – and the terroir.
Initially, Malcolm sold all the fruit to nearby Coates and Seely, while their new plantation was maturing, since both vineyards were on the same chalk geological structure that stretches across the Channel to France.
Two years later, he was ready to make his own wine, with the ambition to produce the best sparkling wine in the country. He invested in a new winery – with two Bucher presses to allow the harvest to be brought in as fast as possible in the uncertain English weather, and also to enable both Rose and white wines to be made at the same time.
He also contracted Corinne Seely as his winemaker. Corinne, who had previously made the Coates and Seely wines, was able to design the winery needed for this particular task, including unusually small tanks so that each plot could be vinified separately. She also worked closely with Fred Langdale, the vineyard manager, to develop what was the largest planting at Exton, on a 25 acre site at the foot of the chalk slopes. Two thirds were devoted to Chardonnay, and the rest to Pinot Noir, with 17 rows even on Burgundian rootstock for better uniformity and thus eliminating the need for green harvesting early in vineyard cycle.
The latest addition to the property is a unique and eco-friendly cool cellar room, with solar panels providing the power for the temperature control – all part of Malcolm Isaac’s commitment to the environment. And to the very best.
Now, with the full vineyard now coming to maturity, Exton Park produces non-vintage Brut Reserve, Rose and Blanc de Noirs sparkling wines, with plans in the pipeline for vintages and more single varietals. One of the first Hampshire houses to do so, thanks to the size of the vineyard, and the careful plantings according to aspect and vine characteristics.