Published: April 21, 2021 | Updated: April 22, 2021

Savouring success: How winning international contest proved a game changer for winemaker

By Andrew Diprose, editor

It was a delicious moment and, without doubt, one to savour.

Just like the wine produced from its 30-acre vineyard.

In fact, Justin Langham, Director of Langham Wine Limited, still admits to feeling stunned.

Langham Wine Estate named Sparkling Wine Producer of the Year by the IWSC (International Wine & Spirits Competition).

Seeing off competition from more than 700 entries from all over the world including champagne and prosecco brands.

At a stroke, elevating a small Dorset vineyard about 11 miles from Dorchester, albeit in the Top 30 of the UK’s 750 or so vineyards, to a truly world-class wine estate.

The previous year the contest had been won by the French champagne house, Veuve Clicquot.

“It was absolutely extraordinary,” said Justin, 57, pictured – with trophy bottle – celebrating the success with his team.

“You hope for the best but it was, genuinely, totally unexpected.

“To be named Sparkling Wine Producer of the Year was a complete game changer for us.

“Our website literally melted.

“Typically we’d get two or three online orders in the course of a day – we had 500 in two hours.

“Our sales in the first three months of this year were up four-fold on the same period last year.

“Above all it was the general exposure of our brand.

“We’ve had huge amounts of Press attention from all over the world.

“It’s created a massive amount of awareness.

“I still find it quite difficult to comprehend.”

It was Justin’s father, John, who first came up with the idea of establishing a vineyard.

That was in 1980 when he acquired the Grade I Bingham’s Melcombe manor house, little changed since the reign of Edward VI in the 16th Century.

Thought to be the oldest house of its kind in Dorset, it belonged to one family – the Binghams – for more than 600 years.

Under its new owner, Bingham’s Melcombe was to become the centre point for Langham Farms Ltd, today covering more than 1,000 hectares.

And also a rudimentary vineyard planted by John and covering some three quarters of an acre.

Justin said: “It was planted in an unsuitable site and, if I I’m being honest, probably not my father’s finest hour.

“Actually, it was a total and utter disaster with not one single grape harvested!”

However, his father’s experience had planted an idea in Justin’s mind, especially as the family was keen to diversify from traditional farming practices.

Passionate about wine, Justin toured many of the world’s most venerable wine regions and studied viticulture at Plumpton College in East Sussex.

And then, in 2009, his dream of having a wine estate became reality when the south-facing vineyard was planted at Crawthorne Farm.

The first harvest was in 2011 with, initially, the grapes sold to other wine producers.

Justin said: “I felt confident about growing grapes but making wine is a very different matter.

“I took a cautious approach until I felt we were absolutely ready.

“Everything we do is driven by quality.”

All the vineyard’s harvest of grapes is used in Langham’s wine production.

Yields vary.

The best year was 2018 when 93 tonnes were harvested, the worst in 2012 when the figure was just two and a half tonnes.

Up to 60,000 bottles of wine are produced annually.

Langham’s range of English sparkling wines includes two NV classic cuveés – Culver and Corallian – priced at £27.50 per bottle.

There’s also a vintage rosé, Blanc de Blancs and Pinot Meunier – priced from £29.90 to £44.00 per bottle.

Langham Wine has an annual turnover of £1.5m and employs 12 full and part-time staff including in its Vineyard Cafe.

After another extended period without visitors, the Langham Wine Estate is now open again for tours, tastings and lunches.

Opening times are Wednesday to Sunday 10am-5pm with tours available every day at 2:30pm.

Tour attendees can learn about all the stages of producing world-class, traditional method, sparkling wines.

The two-hour visit includes a tour of Langham’s vineyard and winery followed by a tutored tasting of three of the award-winning wines.

Langham’s Cellar Door Shop is also open from Tuesday to Friday, 10am – 5pm, for wine purchases.

Justin, whose family company Langham Industries owns Portland Port after purchasing it from the Ministry of Defence in 1996, said he was “very proud” of the vineyard.

He added: “It was a big move for us with an initial investment of £170,000 and some thought I was barking mad.

“But my father, in particular, was always very supportive and said: ‘let’s do this’.

“You never rest on your laurels but, yes, I am very proud.

“In fact, I think it’s absolutely marvellous what we’ve achieved.”