Bolney Wine Estate: Cheese and Wine Tasting Tour A Review

Bolney Wine Estate: Cheese and Wine Tasting Tour A Review

“This was an amazing experience. We learnt so much about how wine and food interact.

The staff were very friendly and the restaurant with balcony is the perfect place just to have lunch and  a glass of wine.”

English Wine and cheese tasting in a beautiful picturesque vineyard on the edge of the South Downs… Don’t mind if we do! This is what happens on Bolney Wine Estates cheese and wine tasting tour that we somehow managed to force ourselves to attend….On a lovely and particularly mild Autumnal morning David and I drove down many country lanes with the trees creating a canopy over our car as they entwined above us. We were definitely in the countryside, and it was simply beautiful. We passed many gorgeous views of the Downs until we reached our destination. Located in the heart of rural Sussex near Haywards Heath, Bolney Wine Estate is one of the oldest and most beautiful vineyards in rural England. Founded in 1972 by Janet and Rodney Pratt and still in the family to this day, now run by Janet’s daughter Sam.

As we make our way up the winding country road the first thing we notice is the impressively grandiose visitor centre, complete with cafe and viewing balcony that overlooks one of the many vine fields. Opposite the centre is an open plan car-park where we parked with ease and made our way up to the cafe where we were greeted and led to the tasting room to meet our tour guide Sue, along with the rest of the group.

Sue begins a short talk about the fascinating history of the estate where we learnt all about its humble beginnings when Rodney and Janet planted their very first vines, through to the expansion of the estate and various experiments with different vines and grape varieties in the following years, all culminating in some incredible achievements such as winning wine producer of the year in 2012 and 2017 and their Pinot Gris becoming the first ever English wine to be served at Wimbledon.

We then took a walk out onto the breath-taking vineyard, where lots of vines were in their lines in a field that is just a mere segment of the vast 150 acres of estate. The last of the grapes delicately hung as the season drew to a close. I was very interested to learn that the vines live for 30 or 40 years in England, but in the hotter countries such as Greece can live until 80! Our tour peers asked a lot of insightful questions which Sue was all to happy to answer as we made our way to see where all the magic happens: The winery!

Giant wine tans and presses filled the room and we learn all about the wine-making process from harvest through to blending and filtration and eventual bottling. We were lucky enough to witness the winemakers experimenting with grape varieties in a new miniature hydro-press which was really interesting to see.

Finally Sue invited us all back to the tasting room for best bit…Lots of wines lined the room awaiting our judgement along with plates of cheese and charcuterie ready on the tables to pair. We had a brilliant time learning how to taste the wine in a way that allows you to appreciate all the aromas and flavours and how certain nibbles can alter your perception of the taste of the wines, what flavours pair well with certain types of wine and what not so well. a spittoon is provided on each table should you wish to use them.

Thankfully David was the designated driver so I was able to fully appreciate the wine without worrying about being over the limit to drive. We tasted five or six different wines, which were a really good cross section of the varieties and styles of wine produced at Bolney, along with some lovely gin and vermouth. All absolutely delicious, though my personal favourites were the classic Cuvee, which paired excellently with smoked fish, and their dry sparkling Cuvee Noir, a Bolney speciality which is exceptionally well balanced nd easy drinking with brioche, strawberry and cherry notes that paired very well indeed with goats cheese. I also really liked their luxurious Lychgate Red which was soft, light and fruity with an autumnal hedgerow aroma that went down a treat! Best of all we could buy everything we tried and more of their wines at a discount at the end of the tour. We left with a case under each arm as well as a bag of sublime local cheeses.

All in all we found our tour to be a really educational adventure that we would wholeheartedly recommend anyone to try, whether you are a wine aficionado or complete novice. It was a wonderful experience that has heightened my awareness of the importance of selecting wines depending on the food being served. We learnt so much about how wine and food interact. The staff were very friendly and the restaurant with balcony is the perfect place just to have lunch and  a glass of wine afterwards. Which unfortunately we did not have time for but is on our to do list for our next visit.

Tony Shattell
Bolney Wine Estate, Foxhole Lane, Bolney, Haywards Heath, RH17 5NB
01444 881 575