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Posts Tagged ‘Henfield’

There are many lovely things about Sussex: fairy-tale castles; stunning cricket grounds; sheer, beautiful cliffs and coastlines.  But in my view, one the very loveliest, is the knowledge that wherever you are – East or West of this once-enormous county – you are never far away from a vineyard.

Bolney started as Bookers Vineyard back in 1972

Bolney started as Bookers Vineyard back in 1972

Sadly (due to the length of the journeys required, and with small children inevitably in tow) I have not yet been able to get to as many in the West as our native East, but last weekend, combined with a family camping trip in the new-to-us campervan, we managed to squeeze in a corker.

To tell the truth, I am not a brave camper.  And the Bongo – whilst being her very own dream come true – has been Ruth’s canny attempt to coax me ever-so-gently out of a stubborn resistance.  The resolve is definitely weakening, and it was not even by connivance that, left in charge of the campsite choice, I chose one a spittoon’s distance from Bolney Estate.  It was all just a happy coincidence!

So let me say first of all that for any reader needing to camp somewhere near Henfield, Blacklands Campsite – http://www.blacklandsfarm.co.uk – is a very welcoming place with good hot showers, a playground and a well-stocked shop!

And to add to its general acceptability to anyone with a passing interest in wine, it is a ten minute drive from Bolney Estate – one of the best-marketed wine brands in Sussex.  Their email newsletter is always jaunty and warm, and worth signing up to via http://www.bolneywineestate.com.

But wow.  I had not really been expecting the Estate itself to be so beautiful.  Diversified certainly – besides the viticultural buildings, machinery and paraphernalia there is a café, a function room and (would you believe it) a Post Office – but also incredibly manicured: the photos don’t really do justice to the way that the vines and vegetable gardens are kept.

The vines were manicured to a level that I have not seen before in Sussex

The vines were manicured to a level that I have not seen before in Sussex

We were lucky to visit on a wonderfully sunny July day, but I am sure the beauty of the site – ‘on a hill which was part of the Butting Hill One Hundred, listed in the Doomsday Book’ – would command attention whatever the weather.

When we arrived there was a group of wedding-dressed revellers enjoying what looked like a buffet lunch and a tasting.  There were folk sitting outside, relaxed under umbrellas, tasting.  And there was a busy but small staff team trying to do their level best with the assortment of paying guests and off-the-street browsers that arrived in the vineyard shop.

Amidst all this I managed to score a taste of their Pinot Gris, their Bacchus (2014), their Cuvée Rosé (sparkling, 100% Pinot Noir, 2010) and a slurp of their Bolney Bubbly at the end.  Sadly, I didn’t write notes, but suffice to say that I remember the Pinot Gris being much more mineral on the palate and less aromatic on the nose than I had expected.  Conversely, the Bacchus was much more stone-fruit and succulent – a beautiful off-dry apéritif for a summer’s day.  (I bought two bottles).

Nicely stocked shop, but the layout doesn't help staff to mingle with customers

Nicely stocked shop, but the layout doesn’t help staff to mingle with customers

The still whites were in my view significantly better than the sparkling wine that I tasted.  Not that the sparkling was unpleasant, at all, but it just didn’t have the same depth of quality.  The rosé was startlingly pale – not sure if it was bled or pressed – and had a biscuity Pinot nose, but the palate was much thinner by comparison.  And the Bolney Bubbly?  Very drinkable, but without any punchy, memorable features.

The Estate website says that they consider themselves ‘specialist red wine producers’ and I saw a still Pinot Noir and I think a sparkling red as well, neither of which I tried.

But when you go, perhaps you will, and you’ll let me know what you think?

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