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Winemaker Interview: Tommy Grimshaw, Langham Estates

Tommy of Langham has given an insight into his wine world. This is the first of a number of producer interviews we will be conducting, providing you with a unique insight into what goes into your bottle! For a little context, Langham winery is located in the heart of Dorset. They sit on chalk and flint soils, making chardonnay their prime go to grape. Langham has just won the prestigious best sparkling producer in the WORLD according to IWSC, the International Wine and Spirits Competition!

What got you into wine initially?

I needed a summer job, so I applied to do some labelling an bottling at a local vineyard in South Devon to get some money. I didn’t think much of it until I found out that I had spectacularly messed up my first year of A levels. So I decided to leave school, I stayed at Sharpham Vineyard to help with the harvest that year (2013 aged 17) and then went travelling. I came back six months later and picked up more work labelling at Sharpham but this time I really began to get involved with the production and fell in love with it. I stayed the for 6 years in total, 3 as assistant winemaker. I moved up to Langham in January 2019 and then in January 2020 I was promoted to Head Winemaker.

What’s the ethos behind Emerging Vines, how did that come about?

The ethos is to make English wine and wine in general much more accessible. Two close friends and myself found ourselves getting increasingly frustrated with being patronised and we would often come up against the pretentious side of wine. We knew that this wasn’t a true representation of the wine industry but we were aware that to many people, wine was the drink of a snob. So we set about making it fun and enjoyable whilst educating people on why English was expensive but very good value for money (most of the time). We began by hosting private and corporate wine tastings, then we added our social media and blogs but the addition of our online shop was the most exciting move in the past year or so.

Describe and tell us about a few wines which have been groundbreaking for you?

I think that the Sharpham Dart Valley Reserve is a wine that will always be close to my heart. It’s an easy drinking, light English white that was my very first introduction to English Wine. In a similar vein, the Langham Blanc de Blancs wines have always interested me and ultimately led me to moving here in the first place. However, I think that it’s the grower producers of Champagne that interest me the most and have provided some of the game changing wines of my career so far. Timothée Stroebel’s Heraclite Sous Bois and Pascal Agrapart’s Complantee probably sit at the top of the pile for me, although the Jacques Selosse Initial was also and excellent introduction to Anselme Selosse’s approach.

If you were to describe Langham’s wine in three words, what would they be?

layered, expressive, complex

Is there a particular style you have tried to understand but still can’t get your head around?

Not really, I don’t like every wine style but life would be boring if everything was great. I find that I can understand and appreciate wines that others enjoy, even if I do not. However, I do find it frustrating how a number of ‘natural’ wines are actually really quite faulty, but it seems to be accepted if they are ‘natural’. I’m a big advocate of a hands off approach but I feel that a wine should be enjoyable first and foremost, even better if the story of how it got to the glass is interesting, not the other way around.

What do you do in your spare time? Besides drinking wine!

I like to surf when I can and I love to cook. There’s probably something installed in me to create tasty things from raw materials. I’ve also got quite into cycling in 2020 and it’s a brilliant way to see the countryside. I’d love to ride from John O’Groats to Lands End to raise some money for The Drinks Trust soon. So far I’ve only managed a ride from Langham to Sharpham, so I need to train more.

Stereotypical but where do you see yourself in 5 years time?

I have no idea. I’m really happy here at the helm of Langham but I also would love to have my own label and winery one day, so we shall see.

What type of music are you into?

All sorts but it often comes down to the 90’s. Hip Hop and Rock and Roll from that decade seem to dominate my speakers.

You’re deserted on an island, you can take 5 items, what do you bring with you?

A lobster pot, a knife, a barrel Nebbiolo, a yurt and a book with advice on how to survive on a deserted island. Sounds like a decent holiday that.

If you weren’t a winemaker, what would you be?

I like to think that it would be something like a baker or an artisanal pasta maker but I honestly don’t know, wine is what I love to make.

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