It is very worth while exploring just how many English vineyards are a matter of less than one hour away from central London that you can go off to visit relying totally on trains and a short taxi ride from the station – Today I was delighted to be the guest of Bolney Wine Estate who are located a mere 43 minutes by train from London Bridge to Haywards Heath station. What is great about many English vineyards is that they are open to the public and offer tastings, tours and at times food as well as throughout the year holding evening dinners / masterclasses that are all in the aid of experiencing their wines. What a wonderful day / evening out it can be for those from London to visit an English vineyard and ultimately support a small yet fast growing national gem in English wines.
Bolney Wine Estate is located in rural Sussex and is one of England’s oldest wine labels being founded in 1972. The estate now have approximately 40 acres of vineyards and 8 variety of grapes grown producing a fine selection of sparkling wines including their Blanc de Blancs, Eighteen Acre Rosé and a red sparkling with their Cuvée Noir. They also have their still range where you can choose from white, rosé and what is their most popular range, their reds.
Bolney Estate have everything you’d need for an enjoyable day out to visit an English vineyard with their tours, café, tasting experiences and wine shop. They have their own winery and also help other local vineyards with their wine making, in total Bolney Estate produces approximately 120,000 bottles a year which is approximately split 50/50 between sparkling wines and still wines. On the day I visited, September 5th, they were just starting to crush their first lot of grapes this season from another local producer so I was able to see the smooth operation they have in place and their 45 years of knowledge and experience at work.
People are always important in any business and I was pleased to meet the well respected Sam Linter, Managing Director & Master Winemaker, of Bolney Estate who explained both the history of the company and the vision for the future which certainly looks positive and involves a big expansion in the bottles being produced annually and the locations internationally ordering. English wine has come a long way in just a short few years that countries like USA, Europe, Japan, Australia, UEA and more now import it!
A tour of the vineyard was in order, despite wet weather that the first week of Wimbledon would be proud of and I had the pleasure of spending the afternoon with Nick Hutchinson, sales executive, who was able to run through the details of the vineyards and the grapes grown along with a tour of the winery and the most important part of all, a tasting of their portfolio of wines. It is always interesting in the world of wine to see what it takes to get that glass of wine in your hand from the type of soil the vines are grown on to yeasts used and blending methods which gives each winery internationally their unique identity from their taste and aromas.
There is a very calming atmosphere for those visiting Bolney Estate from the moment you arrive thanks to its quiet and peaceful location and what I really enjoyed, the café overlooking the sloping hillside of vines. A wonderful seating area inside looking out to a terrace with the relaxing rows of vines to admire where you can enjoy fine food, tea and coffee though of course for many it would be a glass of wine / bubbly what is rightly ordered.
Whilst you sit and enjoy drinks and food you can also look forward to browsing their very own wine shop at Bolney Estate where you can choose to take home a bottle to enjoy later, their selection of wines is a very fine one and does merit their slogan of ‘English Wine has come a long way‘.