Looking at this photo you may think I am somewhere like the South of France but I am actually in Southern England at The Bolney Wine Estate, which is located on the edge of the South Downs in Sussex. It is one of England’s oldest vineyards having had their first vines planted in 1972 and is a family business that has been run by three generations, currently led by Sam Linter, covering a 104 acre vineyard!
The Bolney Wine Estate is perfect for a day out whether you want to go for a tour or simply enjoy a lovely meal with a selection of wines whilst devouring the striking view of the vines as your backdrop. Over the years I have become very fond of English wine and whilst I have visited vineyards in Kent and Surrey, this was my first time visiting a Sussex vineyard.
It took us just under two hours to drive there from London and we will definitely be back with friends in tow! In fact we haven’t stopped raving about it since visiting so I predict that it will be very soon.
We had lucked out on the weather on the date that we chose as it turned out to be a glorious sunny day and on arrival seeing the vibrant green vines I was so blown away by just how stunning it all was!
We started off by taking a stroll through the gorgeous vines for an introduction to the estate. There are eight different varieties of grapes grown on the estate, including Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.
Truly outstanding and award-winning English wine is produced here, with a specialism of still wines, particularly Pinor Noir and Pinot Gris, as well as traditional method English Sparkling Wines.
The excellent quality is down to a few different factors, the first being the benefits of a higher latitude which allows for a longer growing season, giving grapes ample time to mature to full ripeness.
Secondly, the geological aspect, as the iconic chalk of the South Downs provide free draining soils that are fantastic for viticulture. The Sandstone soils have enabled them to make a superior English red. In fact they were one of the first English Vineyards to make a red wine.
Thirdly, the climate, which is classified as a ‘Maritime climate.’ Unlike other parts of the UK, it is much milder, sunnier and warmer.
It was great timing as Veraison had started, which is the onset of ripening in viticulture when the grapes start to change colour, in this case from green to the a reddish, purple.
It is during this period that the aromas and flavours really start to develop in the grapes. Harvest is then usually done in October but this year it will be a little bit earlier due to there having been a great season.
After soaking in the views of the South Downs from in between the vines we headed over to the state-of-the-art winery, which opened in 2o19, for a tour where Senior Winemaker Alex told us all about the production process and showed us all the machinery they use.
Their ethos is ‘guided by nature’ and all the harvesting is done by hand, which while is very labour intensive, means greater quality control over the grapes used for production.
I found this all so interesting and couldn’t wait to try some of the wines produced here.
We were booked into the Eighteen Acre Café and were lucky to have been given a table on the viewing balcony. Isn’t this view just breathtaking? You can’t pre-book a balcony table but you can book tables inside. It is worth asking if a balcony table is available when you arrive at your reserved time.
We decided to have a Classic mezze for lunch as it was such a hot day I wanted something light. The mezze selection was generous with a delicious range of meats and cheeses, parmesan and nigella seed thins, orange and beetroot chutney, grapes, tomatoes, rocket and mixed queen olives, which we enjoyed with a four glass wine flight.
The wines we tried were the Cuvée Rosé, Pinot Gris, Blanc de Blancs and Estate Bacchus.
They were all fabulous but my favourite was definitely the Blanc de Blancs followed by the Cuvée Rosé whilst Amit loved the Pinot Gris. The Blanc de Blancs is 100% Chardonnay with a smooth and creamy finish. It has fruity and nutty aromas and went so well with the cheese from the Mezze.
I couldn’t get enough of the view from the café and felt like I was abroad. It is such a beautiful place and the wines are exceptional! The food was also really delicious and is locally sourced with an emphasis on seasonal ingredients.
If you are keen to try their wines they have an online shop which is very handy. We took advantage of the fact that we were on site and bought three different bottles to take home with us from the Cellar Door Shop, and I made sure to get the Blanc de Blancs as it is so perfect for these dazzling summer days.
However, I recommend visiting to get the best experience as it is truly delightful and such a lovely day trip.
At the time of writing the tours available are:
The Grand Gourmet Tour where you can enjoy a tour of the estate followed by a two-course seasonal buffet lunch, a tasting of five award-winning wines with a food matching plate and a chance to sample their Bolney Estate Gin. This is priced at £45 per person.
The Taster Tour where you embark on a guided tour of the estate, followed by a tasting of five award-winning wines paired with a tasty cheese sample each. This is priced at £20.00 per person
You can check the calendar for upcoming tours and book here: https://bolneywineestate.com/pages/tours
To find out more about The Bolney Wine Estate visit their website here: https://bolneywineestate.com/
I was a guest of The Bolney Wine Estate but all views and photos are my own.