Did you know that the UK produces some amazing quality sparkling wines? That’s what I discovered on a recent trip to Tinwood Estate vineyard in West Sussex.
I never thought our UK weather would be compatible with growing grapes.
How wrong I was.Seeing is believing. I snapped this photo at Tinwood Estate just last week.
From the guided tour, I learned that the success of vineyards in this part of West Sussex, was down to the soil composition and special micro climate.
This land was originally a Lettuce farm, until Art Tukker took over from his dad in 2007.
Art was studying Agriculture at University and he discovered through research that the soil here was ideal for growing grape producing vines.
He pursued further studies on how to grow and manage a vineyard, and so the rest is history.
Tinwood Estate vineyard is now a full fledge family business selling sparkling wines and providing vineyard tours and wine tastings. They have also recently launched their restaurant with an award winning chef.
The vineyard is around 110 acres with up to 150000 planted vines.
Can you spot the deer in the distance? There’s apparently a lot of wildlife in this area, which is wonderful.
So what is special about the soil and climate here?
Apparently the soil is quite similar to those in the wine producing regions of Champagne and Burgundy.
There is a top flint rock layer that provides good soil drainage and a chalk layer beneath that stores water, sufficient to hydrate the vines on hot Summers.
This chalk layer, I’ve been told, also gives the wines a crisp and fresh flavour.
The Estate grows 3 classic Champagne varieties – Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Meurnier.
The climate in South England is not warm enough to produce the high sugar content in the grapes required to produce a good still wine, hence the decision to produce sparkling wines.
The hand harvested grapes are sent to Ridgeview, a renowned winery, to make the wines and then returned to Tinwood to be stored and matured.
Despite not being warm enough to produce still wines, the location is still warmer than most parts of the UK.
This micro-climate is attributed to the Estate being close to the coast that blows over warmer air, whilst being shaded from excessive rain by the Isle of Wight to the North and protected from the winds by the South Downs behind.
The most nerve wracking time is apparently when the vines wake up, the so called ‘bud burst’. If the temperature falls below zero degrees for more than 10 minutes, then the whole vineyard crop can be lost. So no wine for that vintage year.
Thankfully the warmer microclimate in that part of West Sussex helps. Tinwood Estate have also invested in a frost buster machine.
Here are the 3 main Sparkling wines from Tinwood Estate that we got to taste:
Blanc de Blancs, a pale coloured Chardonnay with a stream of small bubbles. Zesty lemon peel notes with a hint of elderflower. It’s refreshing with a crisp green apple taste.
Brut, an Estate blend of 50% Chardonnay, 30% Pinot Noir and 20% Pinot meunier. It has a golden hue with aromas of citrus and melons. A hint of brioche and honey on the palate and a final gentle cream finish.
Rosé, a bubbly pink blend of 20% Chardonnay, 60% Pinot Noir and 20 % Pinot Meunier. It has a dominant berry taste of raspberry, red currant and like strawberries and cream on the palate.
Here are the wines on display inside the restaurant.
This April sees the launch of Tinwood Estate’s Vineyard kitchen under head chef Santo Buscilgio.
We got to try some of Santo’s cooked food and locally sourced produce selection with our wine tastings. Everything was so delicious.
I really loved the Duck confit dish.
We loved all the wines, but my favourite was the Brut.
Tinwood Estate Vineyards have a few lodges for overnight stays, and this was our lodge.
The lodges are luxuriously furnished with a Jacuzzi bath.
The view out towards the vineyard was stunning and I can imagine it to be even more beautiful when the Vine leaves, flowers and then grapes are in bloom.There was also a wooden sauna hut to unwind in, next to the lodges.
If you fancy a fun weekend of wine, country walks and good food, then I do recommend a visit to Tinwood Estate. You can also check out some of the other Staycation places in the UK that I have written about here.
It was an easy journey for us from London on the train and then a short taxi ride. I would have stayed longer, but alas I had to go back to London to work at the hospital.
Hope you have enjoyed the post. Wishing you a wonderful week.
( All photography are copyright to Geraldine Tan, editor of Little Big Bell. )