JFW invest in GB vines and wines

Charlie Holland

Big news in English wine.

For the first time, an international still-wine producer is making a major investment in English wine. From their base in Sonoma, California, Jackson Family Wines have premium properties in France, Italy, Australia, Chile, South Africa and, most recently, on Vancouver Island in Canada.

The Jackson family, now with second and third generations of the children of the late Jess Jackson and Barbara Banke, are Anglophiles and have been sniffing around southern England for commercial opportunities for the last seven or eight years. They have just announced their intention to acquire 65 acres (26 ha) of land to be planted with vines in Essex’s Crouch Valley, one of the warmest parts of England, described recently by Tam as England’s Côte d’Or.

They already make considerable quantities of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay on their many estates in California, Oregon, Canada, Chile, South Africa and Australia and their principal, if long-term, aim with the Essex project is to produce still Pinot and Chardonnay. In the more immediate future, however, they will be producing vintage and non-vintage English sparkling wine, initially based on their acquisition of a considerable quantity of 2022 base wine from Kent and Sussex. There is no immediate plan to build a winery and the wines will be made at the Defined Wine contract winemaking facility near Canterbury in Kent.

Jackson Family Wines intend to continue to increase their vineyard holdings in southern England. Chairman and proprietor Banke commented, ‘I’ve been impressed with the quality of sparkling wines from the UK for years, which influenced our decision to develop premium sparkling and still wines here in England. With my family’s growing involvement in the English horseracing business, and our love of the UK, this move is a natural progression for our company – expanding our ventures in wine regions globally.’ Their total vineyard holdings worldwide are about 14,000 acres (5,665 ha).

In charge of Jackson Family Wines’ English wine operation will be Charlie Holland (pictured above), who will take on his new role from September but will also oversee the 2023 vintage at Gusbourne, where he has been head winemaker and CEO since 2013. He will be assisted by viticulturist James Dodson of VineWorks.

Having worked in Australia, New Zealand, Germany and the US, Holland returned to his native England in 2009 to join the burgeoning English wine industry. ‘After 10 productive and thoroughly enjoyable years leading the amazing team at Gusbourne’, he says, ‘I am thrilled to be joining Jackson Family Wines as they kickstart their new English wine venture. I believe England is the most exciting place in the world to be making wine right now and doing this for a company with a proven commitment and track record of producing world-class wines around the globe is an enticing prospect.’

Brand names are as yet undecided. The company produces about 1,000 different lines in total, many of their names having apparently been settled over a bibulous family meal, followed by a quick internet search.