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A trip to Bride Valley Vineyards in early Spring

Article written by Jack Priestley.


‘The final frontier in a life of wine.’


In 2009, Arabella and Steven Spurrier first planted vines on their family farm in Dorset, England. The classic trio of Champagne grapes; Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier.

Though many vines were being planted in the UK from the early 2000’s, few of those dreaming of producing their very own bottles of fine English wine will have lived a life of wine quite like that of Mr Spurrier.

In fact, few people have ever set foot in as many vineyards, nor tasted as many wines as he. Well regarded as one of the great wine commentators alongside the likes of Hugh Johnson and Jancis Robinson. Technically he was not a vigneron, but had a clear vision for the estate – Bride Valley vineyards – the final frontier in a life of wine.

‘The Judgement of Paris.’


For those not familiar with Mr Spurrier, may I bring you back to the story which defined his early career. In the 1970’s, well established in the wine trade and running a wine shop in Paris, he visited  California. I should mention that in the early 1970’s the French were on top of the world, nobody challenged the French. In fact, the rest of the world had been busy trying to emulate the French… but the big question was – had they been resting on their laurels?

Thoroughly impressed by the quality of wines he tasted on that trip to California, a ‘new-world’ wine country. He went about organising a ‘blind-tasting.’ He organised for a panel of professional tasters in the wine trade to taste the best wines of the day from both France and California, in what became known as ‘the Judgement of Paris.’

When the results were unveiled, to the shock and horror of the French, the Californian’s had come out on top! Steven was nearly chased out of the country. The event caused huge embarrassment and for organising it, he certainly struggled to buy wine there again!

The ‘Judgement of Paris’ put Steven on the map, but the impact of this historic tasting cannot be understated. It changed perceptions across the world. It opened people’s eyes and minds to the wine being produced by these so-called ‘new world’ wine regions; California, Australia, Argentina. And the French, the French knew that it was time to up their game.

Beyond this, Steven spent a lifetime travelling the world, talking about wine and writing about wine. It is now a little over a year since his passing and he will long be remembered for his contribution over his career.


‘The vineyard is found in an almost natural amphitheater carved into the hillside.’


On an early day in Spring I went to visit Bride Valley to see Arabella and vineyard manager Graham, to taste the latest releases of their wines. The family farm is found in one of the most beautiful pockets of the county, in the heart of the English countryside – a must visit!

The vineyard is in an almost natural amphitheater carved into the hillside. The vines are planted on chalky soils and favourably face out mainly to the south, benefitting from long hours of sunlight. Day’s like my visit, with blue skies and only gentle breeze can lead you into the false, often romantic vision of what managing a vineyard entails.

But the English climate is harsh, wet and cool. With all the buzz around English wine people forget that we are just on the margins of where it is possible to grow grapes successfully. To give you an idea about this, in 2012 despite a fantastic summer (think back to the olympics), the weather took a turn for the worse and Bride didn’t pick a single grape! That’s the harsh reality of grape-growing in this country.

Conversely on a year like 2018 where we experienced a glorious Indian-summer, the wines were just thrilling, and that’s just from what we have tasted! Lots of bottles of fizz are lying in cool cellars awaiting release. The high’s are really high and the lows are really low , tears and laughter in equal measure!

‘If it wasn’t for our gloriously average weather- we wouldn’t be quite as good at making sparkling wines!’ – Graham, Vineyard Manager


In talking about this vintage variation, Graham the vineyard manager comments ‘if you have a tough year and end up with something really good – there’s a heck of a lot of joy. Like last year (2020), the yields were really down, but the quality of fruit really good.’

I’m reminded making wine isn’t about a strive for perfection. Every year is a bit of a challenge, some years more challenging than others and quite often that’s reflected in the wines that are produced. Part of the allure of wine is understanding the story that each year brings.

So we have our ups and down, but as Graham adeptly puts it ‘ if it wasn’t for our gloriously average weather- we wouldn’t be quite as good at making sparkling wines!’ With a cool climate and a long growing season, the grapes should just ripen in time for harvest. Each year vigneron across the country pray for some late summer sun before the Autumn rain set in.

Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier when just ripe, have wonderful acidity which is absolutely what great sparkling wine needs. And the flavours of these grapes, when blended together provide the perfect base wine that then undergoes a secondary fermentation in the bottle, just as they do in Champagne, to create that magical fizz.

Each year Bride Valley Vineyards are striving towards sustainable viticulture and aim to produce the highest quality fruit possible, in face of all challenges. They now makes 4x different sparkling wines and since 2018 they have begun making still wines also, which show great promise. In terms of winemaking, it’s a simple low intervention approach to keep a sense of purity and place for the wines.

The wines are fantastic. Tasting the latest releases I am reminded of the exceptional quality and the characterful wines that are made here in Dorset. Bride Valley exude quality and finesse and these are wines that I am always excited to share with our customers.


‘I am reminded of the exceptional quality and the characterful wines that are made here in Dorset.’



Bride Valley Dorset Cremant, NV

This Dorset Cremant is bottled at a lower pressure, and is the signature Bride Valley wine. Bright, pale lemon-green in colour. On the nose, attractive, lifted aromatics. Flavours of citrus, lemon, green apple and gentle shortbread, biscuity notes provide depth. On the palate, delightfully fresh, an almost chalky mousse coming from the delicate fizz. A broad approachable style, and very moreish. Enjoy as an aperitif or with fine seafood.

£29.99 per bottle

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Bride Valley, Brut Reserve, 2017

Roughly an equal blend of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier. Full-bodied, rich and generous but at the same time, bright with beautiful lifted acidity and a fine mousse leading to wonderful mouthfeel and texture. Complex with evolving flavours of orchard fruits, redcurrant, citrus and baked apple with a long finish. Outstanding wine.

£33.99 per bottle 

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Bride Valley, Rose Bella, 2018

A wonderful, delicate sparkling rosé made from predominantly Pinot Noir. The striking colour is achieved using the saignée method (essentially a short maceration on the skins of the red grapes). Amazingly intense aromas of red fruits, wild strawberry, pear and baking spice come from the glass, and follow on the palate. It’s fresh with wonderful intensity of fruit, great mouthfeel, and for an often overlooked wine style, this sparkling rosé is really very stylish. Enjoy as an aperitif.

£35.99 per bottle

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Bride Valley, Dorset Chardonnay, 2019

A terrific cool-climate Chardonnay, beautifully fresh and aromatic with classic green apple and pear notes. It’s very pure and well balanced with a great depth of flavour and a lovely crisp and refreshing finish. You could easily mistake this wine for a very good bottle of white Burgundy! The perfect partner to locally caught seafood!

£19.99 per bottle.  

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