You wouldn’t be mistaken but we are actually in the Summer season believe it or not! Whilst this year has proven to be another washout so far, it can often be a challenge doing something fun with a young family when all it does is rain!
In particular you would probably think that taking two small kiddos to a vineyard was definitely not on the cards, wrong! I am rather lucky to be living in the South East, having moved there 5 years ago and started a family. Why am I lucky? We are surrounded by some of England’s finest vineyards stretching from Kent through to Cornwall.
Living in Brighton means we are in close proximity to some great wine houses in particular, Ridgeview, The Bolney Estate, Court Garden, Albourne, Breaky Bottom, Henners, Chapel Down just to mention a few. Honestly, we didn’t move here for the wine, promise…
One of our closest vineyards is the Bolney Estate and initially we just went for a flying visit to pick up a bottle or two and eject as we have two ankle snappers, who would probably clear a shelf in haste given the first opportunity (smashing the bottles not drinking them, just to clarify!).
So on another rainy summer’s day we ventured to Bolney and how surprised we were:
Upon arriving and ditching the car in the spacious car park, you can clearly see a lovely quaint shop (very British) with green panes and an inviting sign with a post office. Next time I can post some letters too!
The second picture below shows what a lovely space the court yard would be if only it was sunny and we imagine ourselves quaffing wine in the sun whilst picking at some sort of nibbles. Wine tours are also available regularly and is something we will plan for another day minus the kids.
As we went into the shop/cafe we saw a nice display of all that Bolney had to offer from luscious Rosé’s to fab fizzes, intriguing whites and tempting reds. The staff there by the way are fabulous and very friendly and helpful and informed us we can go for a walk across the estate and promptly gave us a map. So we put on our hoods, with wellies already on and headed off into the green.
My eldest seemed very protective of his map and loved being in charge and most importantly diving into every puddle along the way! Equally the map showed us the different vineyards that were growing certain grapes from Pinot Noir to Chardonnay.
What was the most fun was weaving in and out of the vines and seeing the grapes up close and personal. There was also lots of wildlife about and we were lucky enough to catch a glimpse of a young deer bouncing through the vines.
The main vineyard slopes upwards towards the top of a hill and we had lots of fun along the way chasing one another and playing hide and seek. In particular, we wanted to find more deers lurking around but by this point the mini entourage was perhaps making far too much noise and was far too excited.
Once at the top you get quite a nice view over a corner of Sussex but of course on a grey day your visibility is limited. But on the whole we still a nice view and lots of fresh English air.
And what was the most fun? Picking a lane each and racing back down the hill of course! OK and maybe we did let the eldest win but the excitement of not knowing who’s in front when all you can hear is giggling from the lane next to you is certainly a lot of good family fun.
We’d worked up a bit of an appetite and we headed back to the Cafe and again the staff were awesome and they really knew their stuff. We kicked off proceedings with one of their highly recommended charcuteries which was devine, with lots of fresh squishy bread, oil, beautiful locally sourced salamis and hams, cheese and pickly things such as gherkins, olives and chutneys. We also ended up playing paper scissors, rock to see who would have to drive home – I won yay!
We sampled some great wine and we (I) seemed to have made my way through a good selection. This is what we (I) sampled :
Bolney Bubbly – A great nice, dry and light sparkling wine with lovely bursts of citrus, apple and elderflower. Easy to drink! Grapes are mixed i.e. Chardonnay and Müller Thurgau.
Blanc de Blancs – Equally yummy! My wife loved this one, so much so we bought a bottle. More traditional, stylish, smooth with lots of citrus bursts. Made from 100% Chardonnay grapes – Spot on fizz.
Cuvée Rosé Brut – Comes not in a traditional light or dark pink colour but more of an orangey tinge. Lovely nevertheless, this one has won a string of awards and gives notes of strawberry and biscuit. Made from 100% Pinot Noir Grapes.
Cuvée Noir Brut – This is one to challenge the status quo and the more traditionalists among you. This is a unique red sparkling wine! Yes red+bubbles. The verdict? Even though it is different and many non-conformists will just shake their head at it, I quite liked it. I like different though, and whilst it was unusual at first, it certainly grows on you. This one has also won some awards so go ahead and give it a try.
Bolney Rosé – Just lovely. Not normally a big Rosé fan but this has to be one of my new favourites. Fresh, elegant and dry.
Eighteen Acre Rosé – We felt a bit special with this one as there weren't any left on the shelves – First impressions were nice and dry, good lead of strawberry and hints of raspberry. I liked it – we’ll have to see when it's back.
Lychgate White – My least favourite and overall wasn’t overly keen on this one. A bit too floral for me with a long finish. Personally, I like a zesty, dry long finish but this one was perhaps too summer garden for me.
Bacchus – This one also ticked a lot of boxes and we ended up buying a bottle too. Lovely and dry with lots of interesting zesty flavours. This Bacchus has also acquired the label of the ‘Sauvignon Blanc’ of England.
By the way, this wasn’t all by the glass but the staff were so helpful and passionate about their wines that we huddled together at the counter once we’d finished eating sampling little tasters of the ones we hadn’t quaffed by the glass.
All in all it was a lovely day, great wine, great food, great company, great service. The kids loved running around the vineyard and if you are kitted out with some hoods and wellies it’s a great little way to waste an afternoon. I would have sampled the whole range but the kids at this point had reached their attention threshold and the designated driver was getting a bit unimpressed by the banter and giggling with my new friends, and served to remind me that it was my turn to put the little ones to bed tonight… Fair.
Buy Bolney Wines Direct from the winery or at Waitrose: