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I visited this winery in May of 2012 with my colleagues from the British Circle of Wine Writers. We were met and guided by Samantha Linter (owner and winemaker) and Stuart Barford (Sales). They were in the middle of building a new café and visiting/tasting centre which I now know to be completed. This is a modest, family-run operation that has a great mind-set. They are doing everything right: tours, tastings, tea room, café, gift shop, events and more.

Bolney is a 40-acre estate near Cowfold, Sussex. It is 150m above sea level with south-facing, sandstone slopes and surrounded by ancient woodland. The estate is located on a hill that was part of the Butting Hill One Hundred, listed in the Doomsday Book and they have two special parcels called Foxhole Vineyards that are reserved for Pinot Noir, Bacchus and Pinot Grigio – these are the varieties they are focusing on for their high-end wines. And this makes sense: they are not situated on the chalky Kimmeridgian Ridge that stretches from Burgundy, through Champagne and to the Downs. They are situated on another ridge, composed primarily of sandstone, the main soil type in Kitterlé, Alsace, home to steely Rieslings, fragrant Pinot Noirs and crisp Pinot Gris -  so the potential is there, if the climate cooperates …

Bolney began in 1972 as Bookers Vineyards with 3 acres. Today it has 39 acres and grows 11 grape varieties, specialising in red wines – which is forward-thinking … Sam points out that if climate change moves or halts the Gulf Stream, then the English wine trade is finished. But if not, then the future will feature reds. I agree completely – she’s getting ahead of the curve.

They produce 4 still and 4 sparkling wines with both traditional and non-traditional grapes. Below are the wines they showed us that day – and I shall be returning to fill up the boot.

2011 Lychgate White

Reichensteiner, Schönburger and Wurzer grapes. The nose is yeasty and clean with a crisp, refreshing palate that takes you for a stroll in a fragrant English orchard …. all apples and pears with a touch of the tropical lychee. And it is only 11%, which is what it should be – wines of 13,5˚ and more, don’t taste of anything. It’s the New World climates that have forced the trend for baked wines upon us.

2011 Pinot Grigio

Clean, crisp, appealingly tart – a slight lack of body/texture, but a refreshing and original “English” version of this variety.

2010 Bolney rose

50/50 Rondo and Dornfelder. A lovely savoury nose followed by a palate of stewed rhubarb. Rondo was introduced to England in 1983 and is a very early ripening variety with skins that can be a bit odd-tasting, which is why it is preferred to be used in rosés than reds (less skin contact on the jus) and in blends.

2011 Bolney rosé

A year younger …and still too young. A nose of redcurrants, but it was overall lacking structure and extracts. Would like to go back to this and taste it again in a few months.

2009 Lychgate red

80% Rondo and 20% Dornfelder. This has a lovely fresh, stony and herby nose. 12.5% - refreshing and pleasant to drink. Yields are 2.5-3 tons to the acre and the planting density is really low (as opposed to the higher the better). The plants are really spread out because of the humidity – this protects vines from disease. But it will also encourage the roots to remain on the surface and not be forced to dig down into the soil, where the nutrients and varietal character are found.

2011 Pinot Noir

Aged in ¾ French and ¼ American oak. 13% alcohol.  Served a bit too cold so was not showing at its best that day: a bit diluted and unfocused. More of a light Alsatian version of Pinot Noir and I’d expect a more Alto Adige weight.

2007 Blanc de Blancs

100% Chardonnay. Nicely made – original varietal expression. Crisp, clean and biscuity. Very enjoyable.

2008 Cuvée rosé

100% Pinot Noir. 18 months sur lees. Nice nose and refreshing, clean body with tight structure and lively bubbles. Great.

2009 Cuvee Noir

100% Dornfelder. Nicely perfumed … strawberries. Pleasing texture. Well-made.

2009 Bolney Bubbly

Muller-Thurgau and Chardonnay blend. The nose is really nicely crisp and dances you straight into a complex and textured body, finishing off with a clean, solid finish.


Café open Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturdays from 8-4pm

Call or visit web-site to book tastings or a tour.

Foxhole Lane, BOlney, Haywards Heath, West Sussex RH17 5NB, 01444 881 575



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    BOLNEY WINE ESTATE, SUSSEX - TASTING NOTES: Diary of a Wine Critic - The Wine Lady & Climate Change and Wine
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    Climate Change

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