I really am living in the best county there is. I love sparkling wine (I love all wine but I’m particularly fond of bubbles) and so what better place to live in the UK than the South of the country, where we are fast building a reputation for world class sparking wine. I have already written about wonderful Wiston (issue 24) and remarkable Ridgeview (issue 22) and so it was about time that I got to beautiful Bolney.
And beautiful it is too.
Bolney Wine Estate as it is today has grown from 3 to 39 acres since 1972, and has been run by head winemaker Samatha Lintner since the 1990s. Unusually for a Sussex wine producer, Bolney has become known as much for its still wines as sparkling. Their Pinot Noir is highly regarded, having won Bronze at the Decanter World Wine Awards 2012 and Silver and Best in Class at the International Wine and Spirits Competition. Quite an achievement for a grape variety that’s notoriously hard to master.
As I stepped through the doors into their brand spanking new cafe, I was immediately drawn to the views overlooking acres of vineyard. The estate is situated on a hill that was originally part of the Butting Hill One Hundred, listed in the Doomsday Book. There’s something about vineyards that instil a sense of calm and peace. Perhaps it’s the unconscious association with the act of enjoying wine, a slowing down and appreciating a moment and the connection with earth to glass. While I stood on their outdoor terrace appreciating the view I was served a glass of Bolney Bubbly. This achieved both Bronze at the Sommelier Wine Awards 2016 and Silver at the Premium Select Wine Challenge at Prowein 2014/2015, and delicious it was too. I found it well balanced and easy drinking. Its description at the awards - “Clean, with toasty, biscuit aromas and citrus, balanced and fresh on the palate” is spot on.
I perused the cafe menu and was immediately impressed. Serving home made and wholesome breakfasts, lunches and bites/platters using local ingredients, such as the Goat’s Cheese (from Lewes) Salad. The cheese and charcuterie plates caught my eye as being an ideal accompaniment to wine tastings. The cheese is mostly supplied from local award winning High Weald Dairy, who were also in attendance on the day providing an impressive array of their produce. I shall be paying them a visit soon.
Each dish on the menu is matched with a recommended wine should you so choose to indulge (and have a driver with you). Most of the Bolney wines are available by the glass. It reminded me of the approach taken by new world wine estates; providing a full experience for visitors. While we sipped our bubbly, excellent canapes were provided by Four Gables Food Academy, which is actually a cookery school based in Ashtead and run by ex-chefs (with excellent credentials from top London establishments such as Claridges). These were some of the best canapes I have had in some time. Among them were fresh calamari, mini duck rillette, smoked salmon blinis, a delicate pastry cone with a tangy goats curd filling. All of these worked well with sparkling wine. This was a good advert for their offering and I am seriously tempted to book one of their courses as a result.
After some sipping and mingling, none other than Ollie Smith (one of the resident wine experts on Saturday Kitchen) officially opened the new cafe and visitor centre. As part of his speech he expressed praise and pride at the quality of wines being produced in the region. Ollie then proceeded to belie his suave, genteel image by hacking the top of a bottle with a machete.
If you are a wine lover I would highly recommend a day trip to Bolney. If you are a walker or hiker it would make an ideal pit-stop for wine tasting and lunch or light bites. Ideally, go when you don’t need to drive…