Following a brave career change, from solicitor to winemaker, it would seem that Kristina Studzinski made a worthwhile choice! Having co-founded ‘Off the Line’ Vineyard in Sussex, together with her partner Ann-Marie, Kristina is one of several inspirational female winemakers who have established themselves within the English wine industry. Both Kristina and Ann-Marie are involved in every aspect of the growing, making, marketing and sale of their wines. A quick scroll through Kristina’s twitter page, highlights her viticultural versatility, in fact, one specific tweet reads; ‘I reject the boundaries drawn between vine grower and wine maker and rejoice in the fact I do both.’ This interview aims to shine our spotlight on Kristina’s wine making journey towards making her award-winning trio of English Rosés.
At which point did it become obvious that wine making was the route you were destined for? Was this always the plan?
There was no light-bulb moment! My ambition to make wine was first inspired by a visit to the Gaillac, in southern France, in 2006. At that time, I was working as a lawyer in the government legal service. It was a case of falling in love with the concept of wine making and vine growing and it’s connection to a region and expression of that region. Over time, my ambition grew and I started to think seriously about having a career in wine. I started with the WSET and then decided to enroll at Plumpton College full-time in 2011 to study for the FdSc in wine production. My time at Plumpton was brilliant in that it gave me the technical skills, practical experience and contacts to make an informed decision that wine making really was for me and I could do it successfully. So no, I can’t say it was always the plan but it was a case of wanting to pursue a second career in something I felt I passionately wanted to do but needed to ensure I had the aptitude for.
Please describe the highest point of your career so far...
The first harvest at Off the Line in October 2016 was definitely the highest point so far. The quality of fruit was extremely high and there was as much fruit as I could have hoped for at that stage. It was the culmination of five years of planning, hard work and dedication; truly exhilarating!
How do you balance your work life/personal life?
I like to swim to keep fit. Also, I am a consumer of contemporary art and literature. I think it is important to see the wider picture and experience other worlds and points of view, which art and good writing has the capacity to do. I am definitely someone who is driven and, possibly, the boundaries between my personal life and my career are sometimes blurred but I see that as a good thing.
As part of an industry which has been historically male dominated, do you feel your gender has ever acted as a barrier to your success?
Not a barrier to my own measure of success as I feel I am achieving my goals in the wine industry. As I grow older I think ageism is probably more of a problem. I will be 54 this year and I do wonder sometimes if I wasn’t running my own business, how employable I would be in the wine industry. I have heard very credible stories of men passed over in the wine industry at the age of 40, which saddens me greatly. We are all potentially in the discrimination boat together and it will affect us all at some point in our lives so we need to fight it together across the board.
To anyone looking to start a winemaking/viticultural career within the English Wine Industry - what are the two main pieces of advice you would give?
The first thing is to get training at whatever level best suits you, whether at Plumpton or abroad. And experience as many wine growing regions as you can both as a worker and a visitor.
Why have you chosen to focus on making a still rosé ?
My passion is more for making still wine than sparkling but I wouldn’t rule anything out for the future. From the varieties we have planted at Off the Line it is possible to make different styles of wine both still and sparkling. It became attractive to try first to produce a quality still rosé to compete with wines made from wine growing regions all over the world. I am very happy with the quality we are achieving at an early stage in the development of our business. The rosé category is fascinating to me and it is exciting to be part of it. I guess it reflects my ethos which is not to run with the crowd and to be different and challenging, which is important in life whether it ends in disaster or something brilliant.
What were the last two truly memorable English wines (that weren’t your own) that you tasted?
I am a big fan of Fox&Fox and their 2013 Blancs de Blancs ranks amongst my top English wines ever. Also Will Davenport’s Horsmonden Dry, which is uniquely characterful and shows typicity and integrity. I feel these are wines which bring something new to the party and where there is a balance between the skill of the vine grower and that of the winemaker; beautifully harmonious.
Website - www.offthelinevineyard.com
Instagram - @offthelinevineyard
Twitter - @KristinaStudz