A team led by Laithwaites chief executive Simon McMurtrie has leased the land from the Crown Estate and will begin planting 16,700 vines on three hectares of land within Windsor Great Park.
The 2,000ha park, 20 miles to the west of London, is owned by the Royal family and managed by Royal Farms, which has given Laithwaites its ‘full support’ for the project.
Royal Farms is a private business run by the Duke of Edinburgh, who is taking a personal interest in the project. ‘The Duke is the Ranger of the Estate and he has the ultimate say over what happens on the estate,’ McMurtrie told Decanter.com.
The vines planted will all be Champagne varieties: the majority Chardonnay, with Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier. The first vintage is expected in 2013, and the wine produced will be exclusively sparkling.
Stephen Skelton MW, a veteran of English wine and one of the first to plant vines in England, at Chapel Down in 1976, is part of the Laithwaites team organising the project.
The news that such a high-profile vineyard is being planted has given a massive boost to English sparkling wine, which is already riding a wave of popularity.
Some 4m bottles of English wine were produced last year, around half of it sparkling. The trade body English Wine Producers reckons there is 75% more land under vine than there was in 2004.
Other high-profile vineyards include Waitrose’s experimental plantings at Leckford Estate in Hampshire, and Decanter consultant editor Steven Spurrier planted just over 4ha at his farm in Dorset in 2009.
Both vineyards are Champagne varieties only, with the first vintages expected to be ready in two or three years.