A group of excited and inquisitive members set off early on a sunny Wednesday morning to visit 4 vineyards over a 2 day trip. We had timed the trip just before harvest time so as we could see the vines at their best.
Our first stop was the ‘upmarket’ Tinwood Estate, based at the foot of the South Downs next to the Goodwood Estate. This is only a vineyard and not a winery but they had 3 luxury Lodges where you could spend the night, but we didn’t. Here the Dutch owner’s son Art showed us his well-kept vines and explained the growing and harvesting process. The main grapes grown are Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Menuier. As most European vines were destroyed at the end of the 19th century by the phylloxera disease, all these vines are now grafted onto resistant American root stock. If this hadn’t happened, there might have been no wine industry. Art also talked us through the tasting of 3 expensive sparkling wines which were served in beautiful ‘champagne’ styled glasses.
From there we went for a lovely lunch at the White Hart Stopham set outside in a marquee overlooking the river Arun. From here we set off to Stopham Winery where the owner Simon showed us around his vineyard that he and another look after. Completely different to Tinwood. Again similar vines to Tinwood but he showed us how the grapes are crushed and made into wine in large vats. He was detailed in his information. We then tasted another 3 wines. We drove on to our hotel for the night in Hastings, where we had a lovely meal to end a perfect day.
Our second day started with a hearty breakfast in preparation for a day tasting many wines. Weather again was pleasant with sunshine. We arrived at 10am at Chapel Down, England’s leading wine producer, offering a range of award-winning sparkling and still wines. Jo was our guide and she took us to look at Bacchus grapes as well as Chardonnay. They also grow Pinot Noir and Pinot Blanc. The winery was vast and their process of making grapes into wine was done on a large scale, but they didn’t do the bottling, that was done by a company that came in and the bottles were stored offsite. They had an impressive restaurant and Wine and Fine Food Store. Here we sat down and tasted 10 wines, some sparkling, some still and even red wines. As we staggered !!!!
From there we made our way to the last but not least, Ridgeview Wine Estate. Set in a woodland area they do have to scare birds, rabbits and even deer away from the vines. This winery creates sparkling wines from classic grape varieties, which have been mentioned already. They also took the grapes from Tinwood Estate. By this time, we ourselves were quite knowledgeable in growing vines. The winery itself was similar to Chapel Down, but Brandon, our guide, showed us corking, foil wrapping, labelling and storage of the bottles. We tasted 4 sparkling wines including a rose.
We headed home and our very nice driver of our mini bus made sure he took us the scenic route as he had throughout the 2 days. A very enjoyable and interesting trip was had by all. We are looking forward to our next one.