Discover more about our Kent vineyard, Commanders, with insights from Laura Rhys, Master Sommelier. You'll learn what makes this terroir so special for growing rich, ripe, Chardonnay grapes. 

We planted vines Commanders in 2014; it's one of our few sites dedicated entirely to Chardonnay and has both Champagne and Burgundian clones.

Compared with Boot Hill, it's closer to the coast and lower in elevation at between 10-20 metres above sea level. It’s a wonderful, sheltered vineyard, benefitting from the protection of woodland at the bottom corner where it meets mature hedges on the western side; this takes the edge off the southwesterly winds.

Sandier, well-drained soil
Despite the fact there's only a narrow country lane separating Commanders and Boot Hill, the soils are remarkably different - Commanders vineyard has much more friable soil, with a higher proportion of sand and a looser structure. This helps with drainage in the site – especially important given the more shallow slope in the vineyard.

Despite its relative shelter, standing at the northern tip of the vineyard in summer, you can still feel a breeze. There’s certainly more ventilation at the top of the vineyard than at the bottom corner; down here, the air is still, the temperature feels warmer and one can understand how this vineyard produces such exciting fruit.

Vine vigour and ripe fruit
Those more sheltered corners equate to more vigour in the vine, thicker trunks and ultimately a higher fruit load which needs managing to control both ripeness levels and disease risk. The top of the vineyard, with its drier soils, less vigourous vines and increased breeze, produces less fruit per vine - but when both are taken together we again find balance.

In its youth, Commanders was one of the earliest vineyards to ripen – in 2017 we picked the Chardonnay even earlier than our Pinot Noir fruit in other parts of the vineyard, which surprised us all, but perhaps shows what a special vineyard it has the potential to be.

Coming of age
As the vineyard matures, we're seeing ripening times stabilise, but it's still one of the earliest picked each year.

Base wines from Commanders show both ripeness and elegance, with a fleshy quality in tandem with defined mineral notes. 

Using fruit from the ripe, plush 2022 vintage, we've crafted a limited-edition single-vineyard Chardonnay from Commanders. This wine offers a detailed insight into this special terroir. You can purchase it here