Winemaking is hard work. And everyone, no matter how brilliant, starts at the bottom. Learning the craft at each vintage – and every vintage is different – so you never stop learning.
There are some people in life who you meet who just give off energy and radiate competence. If they also have a strong dose of humility and a passion to learn and be part of a team, you know you have someone special.
I have met many winemakers in my time. Most have energy, and most radiate competence (although some aren’t quite as good as they think!). Jo has both of these qualities in spades. However, it’s her honesty, resourcefulness and desire for constant improvement that makes Jo such an important part of our team.
And anyway, who wouldn’t want someone with a surname that rhymes with “Sparkle” and who has a dog as cute as Fitz on their team?
Frazer Thompson, CEO
What is the winery activity like at this time of year?
August is one of the rare quiet times at the winery. Our time is mainly spent bottling the remaining small production wines, such as our Orange Bacchus 2019, Albarino 2018 and the Kits Coty Collection Wines. We are also getting the winery ready for the start of the harvest which will begin in September. It’s also a time to preserve our energy ready for some very long, exhausting days when the winery becomes a hive of activity for several weeks.
What does a typical working day look like for you?
There is no typical day. My responsibilities depend on the time of year. Generally, I manage the winery on a day to day basis – conducting lab analysis and assigning tasks to our cellar hands. My main ongoing responsibility is to help make sure all of the wines that we make are monitored from harvest through to bottling, and made as efficiently as possible.
How did you get into winemaking?
I graduated from Nottingham University with a Psychology degree, then fell into winemaking as a way of funding my 3 year travelling stint.
In 2013, I worked back-to-back vintages in Australia and then New Zealand, all of which were night shifts, so I ended up spending half of the year working in the dark! Later that same year I came to work a Chapel Down harvest…and I never left!
What qualifications have you gained within winemaking?
Chapel Down helped me gain my MSc in Viticulture & Oenology at Plumpton College. It was a lot of work studying alongside my job at the winery, but rewarding to be able to put what I was learning into practice. I graduated in February 2019.
Do you have any top tips for anyone who wants to get into winemaking?
The best experience is to go and work a harvest! Winemaking can be dirty, tiring work, especially at the beginning of your career. But the hard work always pays off and is well worth it.
What developments in the English wine industry are you most excited by?
The increase in the general quality of English wine. It’s been a pretty special industry to be part of these last 10 years and we are just getting better and better.
Other than the UK, which wine region intrigues you the most and why?
All marginal wine regions intrigue me. Maybe I’d go to Sweden. I like challenging places where vintage variation is celebrated as it allows more room for creativity.
If you could do a one-day job swap with a fellow Chapel Down employee, who would it be with and why?
(Honestly, I wouldn’t, I have the best job 😊…maybe James the gardener)
What are the perks of your job?
On sunny days, eating my lunch in the vineyard with my dog.
Jo’s top three wine recommendations offer a great snapshot of what we do best in England – world class sparkling wines and clean, crisp, aromatic white wines. Enjoy!
Brut NV – 6 bottles £135.00 (RRP: £162.00) *Limited August Offer*
Discovery Series Pinot Blanc 2018 – 6 bottles £120.00
Kit’s Coty Estate Bacchus 2018 – 6 bottles £150.00