Tell us the story of how you built your brand
Ruth: We have been making award-winning wines at Domaine de Sainte Rose, our stunning, southern French property, since 2002. From our 40-hectare vineyard we have created an eclectic range of wines that have won international acclaim and are sold around the world. In 2012, attracted by the quality of the terroir and the opportunity to become part of what has become one of the most dynamic wine producing regions of the world, we brought our expertise and savoir-faire back to the UK, establishing Simpsons Wine Estate with an aspiration to produce the finest quality still and Method Traditional English sparkling wines.
Even the subtlest differences in terroir can influence the characteristics of the grapes therefore there was no more important consideration than the quality and suitability of our land. Simpsons Wine Estate is situated amid the pristine beauty of the Elham Valley – an unspoilt seam in the North Downs of Kent where the contours of the land, the climate and the soil could scarcely be improved upon for viticulture.
With 30 hectares of vineyards now established on the iconic chalk terroir of the North Downs and a state-of-the-art winery, we saw our first harvest in 2016. Exuding a real sense of place and with a strong focus on provenance, Simpsons Wine now produces a highly-acclaimed range of exclusively estate grown still and sparkling wines, including the Roman Road Chardonnay 2018, which has just won Best in Show and a Platinum Medal in the 2020 Decanter World Wine Awards and the Chalklands Classic Cuvee 2016, which won a Best in Class and gold medal in the 2019 Champagne and Sparkling Wine World Championships.
Why did you choose to set up your business in the luxury sector?
Charles: The ‘terroir’ and climate of south-east England lends itself the creation of world class Traditional Method sparkling and still wines, hence our product is naturally seen as a luxury product, due to its quality and price point.
What's your favourite thing about your job?
Ruth: We love the variety that our job provides and the fact that no two days are the same! The best thing about wine production is that it requires a unique combination of disciplines in order to create the end product and to be successful. It begins with farming, the importance of the land, choosing the appropriate rootstock, clones and grape varieties and then meticulous viticulture. This is followed by the technical winemaking side, which in our case involves the investment and use of cutting-edge oenological equipment and applying a minimal intervention approach to maintain the purity and elegance of the fruit. Finally, there is the luxury goods sales and marketing of the finished product, the all-important presentation and positioning of the brand, which has provided us with the opportunity to become involved with Walpole.
What and/or who is your source of inspiration and motivation?
Charles: I know it sounds cheesy, but we do inspire and motivate each other! We realise that not everyone could work or run a business with their significant other, so count ourselves as very lucky that we can. We have worked together for so long now and think in such a similar way that a number of people have actually commented that they think we are telepathic!
In 2002, our decision to cast aside our respective international careers in order to establish and run a high-quality, boutique, wine business in rural France was driven by a desire to work together and to create a family business of our own. It involved a large degree of risk and a huge amount of determination.
Now that we have Simpsons’ Wine Estate, our second wine business in England, the risk still exists and the determination now required is twofold, but we wouldn’t have it any other way!
If you could have any other job in the world what would it be?
Ruth: Charles would be a rock guitarist and I would be an artist!
If you could do something differently in your career what would it be?
Both: No regrets! We learn from everything we do.
Where do you see yourself and your company in 10 years’ time?
Charles: We would like to see our wines represented in high-end restaurants, hotels and independent wine retailers in many different countries around the world. As an established business we would like to have achieved our goal to improve our carbon footprint, by achieving full sustainability accreditation for both our vineyards and winery and the installation of a solar PV array on the roofs of the winery buildings.
What does success look like to you?
Ruth: Success to us means fulfilment of our goals, with an outstanding product that is universally well received and also that we have a happy and thriving team working with us.
What advice do you have for any young entrepreneurs looking to start their own business?
Charles: Follow your dream, be creative and work hard, but make sure you are properly funded and know the price of the ticket!
What is your greatest luxury under £10?
Ruth: For Charles it would be a perfectly carved plate of Jamon Iberico Pata Negra ham and for me it would be a freshly baked butter croissant from our local bakery in France!