Harrow & Hope is truly a labor of love. It represents a small, family team who believe that, with hard work and good fortune, the flint laden slopes of Marlow will yield a sparkling wine to rival the world’s greatest. Henry and Kaye Laithwaite have literally poured their lives into this hope and making it reality.
Over half a million years, this part of the Chiltern Hills has been shaped by the retreating Thames, leaving behind an environment ideal for creating world-class sparkling wine. Alas, the same flint rocks that make the single vineyard estate a dream for Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier, also make it a nightmare to work and cultivate – as two broken harrows testify. But then nothing worth treasuring ever came easily.
Grown, picked and expertly blended by the same team on the same site, each glass of Harrow & Hope is a tribute to traditional method of viticulture and winemaking, from the unique characteristics of Marlow to the spirit of adventure. Henry comes from a family that has been obsessed with wine for 50 years. All he has ever known, thanks to his parents, is vineyards and wineries. As a toddler he staggered around Chablis Grand Cru vineyards and made his first wine (albeit from pineapples) at age 13. He met his wife Kaye at Durham University, a girl who stuck with him for years while he disappeared to Australia and France to do harvest for months on end. They married in 2008 and headed to rural France to set up their first vineyard project at Château Verniotte in Castillon, Bordeaux. Although they still love the place, they wanted to start a family in England. And just at that time it became clear, thanks to the work of others, that the chalk hills of England were capable of producing sparkling wines that were more than just good but were world-class.
They then decided to begin their own sparkling wine project. They searched for some time and eventually found the perfect site on the rolling hills behind Marlow. They planted vines, had two children and built a winery, and 7 years later they were ready to delight the world with their fizz.
Terroir is a French term with no equivalent English translation. It simply refers to all of the natural elements that contribute to a wine’s taste, including the soil, rocks, climate, and exposure to the elements. The most important factor for Henry is the soil. Since the soil is his greatest asset, he makes sure to look after it. Organic nutrition and avoiding herbicides is an absolute must. If the goal is to extract unique flavors from these vines then they have to be in a healthy, well-structured and balanced state. It is certainly more work than that of conventional viticulture but it makes a sparkling wine that has true character and individuality.
The vineyard sits on an ancient Thames gravel terrace, where water flowed about 450,000 years ago. For thousands of years the Thames cut down into the gravels and chalk and left a terrace with steep slopes with large deposits of flint gravel, mixed into thick orange clay lying on top of the chalk. This is classic Thames terroir and exists all around the valley at various heights above sea level. Being quite central and away from the coast the site experiences high summer day temperatures with cooler nights that preserve the precious acidity.
All of the unique blocks and varieties are fermented separately, in small stainless-steel tanks. Henry ferments about 30% of the wines in aged oak Bordelaise barrels to give extra character and complexity to the final wines. Henry feels that the winemaking process is like the game Tetris, as “nature gives us different shaped blocks every year and we have to arrange them to have a complete wine.”
“I am astounded by the quality Henry has achieved from such young vines. The future at Harrow & Hope looks bright.” – Dr. Tony Jordan, founder of Domaine Chandon, Australia