By Kevin Pilley
One of racing’s biggest female owners, Susannah Ricci, has launched a range of vegan-friendly very ‘racy’ English wines. The branding of the wines is based on her pink and green silks, while the names of the wines will also be familiar to racing buffs.
Yotes Court vineyard in Mereworth, Kent – owned by former accountant Susannah – is one of the first British producers to formally achieve recognition for its sustainable credentials, receiving the Sustainable Wines of Great Britain (SWGB) certification.
Yotes Court has released four debut wines and Suzannah explains the stories behind the names: “‘On The Bridle’ is a racing term referring to a horse that appears to win easily but underlying this is its natural talent and a significant amount of hard work.
“‘On The Nod’ describes a horse winning in a close, exciting finish – just like our Bacchus grape is on the palate.
“‘Hands and Heels’ refers to the way a jockey is able to ride a horse to win a race in what looks like a very easy way with minimal intervention.
“Our ‘Best Turned Out’ is well-presented and eye-catching.”
TIME TO CELEBRATE
Suzannah has been breaking out her English sparkling wine thanks to her racehorse Chacun Pour Soi who has just been named as the highest-rated chaser in the Anglo-Irish Jumps Classification. The nine-year-old was rated 1lb better than Gold Cup hero Minella Indo (175) with Cheltenham runner-up A Plus Tard and Aintree and Punchestown winner Clan Des Obeaux sharing a rating of 172.
Says Suzannah: “It is only the second time this century that a horse defeated in the Champion Chase has been named as the best in the two-mile division. Chacun won four races – the Grade 2 Hilly Way Chase at Cork, two Grade 1’s at Leopardstown and the Champion Chase at the Punchestown Festival – in the 2020-21 campaign, his only defeat coming when third to Put The Kettle On at Cheltenham in March.”
Ricci owns in the region of 30 horses in training. The number varies as some are recovering from injury, some have recently gone to the sales, a few are in training to run over the summer but most are enjoying a few weeks out in the fields on their summer break.
“I have one horse in training with Venetia Williams in the UK (who I hope will run in the Gold Cup at Cheltenham next year) but the rest are all in County Carlow, Ireland trained by Champion Irish Trainer Willie Mullins.”
The grapes are in the hands of Vineyard Manager, Tony Purdie, who joined in 2016 from Hawkes Bay vineyard in New Zealand. The vines are trained as well as the horses.
“The ground at Yotes Court provides exceptional growing conditions for our different varieties of grape; Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris, Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier, Chardonnay, Divico and Bacchus. The slope is perfectly orientated slightly east of due south with a free draining, fine clay loam and a high ratio of broken Kentish ragstone.”
Yotes Court grows and harvests grapes on the vineyard with minimal intervention. Every bunch is hand-harvested and minimally processed in high energy-efficient winery facilities in two locations, one just a mile from the vineyard and the other in Defined Wines, Canterbury.
Susannah Ricci established the vineyard in 2016 and has been growing grapes for award-winning Chapel Down wines since 2016. Master wine maker Stephen Skelton said after the planting of the vineyards in old orchards on Susannah’s farmland, “This is the best site I have ever planted, and that’s from well over 100 sites in the UK”.
Horses are her first love. “The first horse I owned was in 2005 in a syndicate with my husband and two friends. He was a gelding called ScotsIrish and he gave us so many great days out and was really successful over quite a few years running 46 times, winning nine times and placing 15 times. The first horse in my own name was Mikael D’Haguenet who gave me my first Cheltenham win in March 2009.”
Suzannah’s other high points include Vatour and Faugheen winning in back to back years 2014 and 2015, and Annie Power’s win at Cheltenham in March 2016 in the Champion Hurdle after falling at the last fence in the lead in 2015.
“There is also something extremely thrilling to an English person to have a runner in the Grand National. It is a race everyone is aware of from childhood, a race that people will have a bet on even if they don’t gamble the rest of the year, or they will be involved in a workplace sweepstake. I’ve been fortunate to have several runners with the best finish this year when Burrows Saint came 4th.
“For as long as I can remember I have put a small bet on a female jockey to win and I had hoped it would be Katie Walsh when she rode for me in 2016 on Ballycasey and she was doing brilliantly before being unseated at the 29th fence. So I was delighted that Rachel Blackmore crossed the finish line first this year.”
Few racing owners can celebrate the victories of their horses with their own wine!
Article and photos courtesy of Kevin Pilley.
Karen can usually be found glued to her computer or at the stables. Having edited several national magazines she co-founded Eclipse Magazine in 2008 after realising that many of her friends were nervous about going racing due to lack of information – what to wear, how to bet etc.
She absolutely loves her job (how many people can say that?!) and is truly grateful to all supporters of and contributors to Eclipse Magazine.
If you are reading this she would like to say THANK YOU! (And please spread the word about Eclipse…!!)