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Sparkling Wine Tasting at Tinwood Estate

It was my first official post-lockdown outing so, of course, it rained, and it rained, and it rained all the way to Chichester, West Sussex. When we eventually drove up the track to Tinwood Estate, the drizzly showers finally stopped. We took it as a sign that were in for a real treat. Not that we would have ‘bottled’ going in the rain anyway… nothing could spoil our fizz time!

It was my Mum’s birthday, and as an avid wine appreciator, I could think of no better place to celebrate than at a vineyard, perfectly located at the foot of South Downs National Park. Tinwood Estate has a reputation for producing the finest English sparkling wines and we were ready and raring to sip all three – the Blanc de Blancs, the Estate Brut, and an exquisite Rosé.

We were shown to our table in the tasting room and shortly joined by four other couples. The tables were all placed the correct social distance apart but to be honest, it didn’t feel strange, and I instantly felt that seriously missed buzz of going on a little adventure.

The recently built tasting room was modern and striking, the wide-open doors stretched over on the south facing terrace, with the vines in clear view. I was particularly enamoured by the three rows of 30 Tinwood wine bottles stretching from the floor to the ceiling, starting with a light golden colour to the blushing Rosé pink at the top.

Tinwood Estate owner, Art Tukker, introduced himself and we were instantly up and walking down to the vines. En route we passed the three luxurious vineyard lodges that were added to the estate in 2016. They were fully booked (obviously) so I was gutted I couldn’t take a little peak inside one. I could only imagine how breathtaking the idyllic view from the terraces of the lodges would be; panoramic views of the vines and a glass of sparkling wine as the sun was setting – heavenly!

Art’s family, originally from Holland, enjoyed success growing and selling Iceberg Lettuces but when market forces changed, the family decided the business needed to go in a different direction. He explained that the idea of planting his own vineyard came after his final year dissertation back at University in 2005. His work examined the viability of producing a sparkling wine on an English Farm.

The logical next step was for him to travel to New Zealand – home of my all-time favourite wine, the Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc – to increase his knowledge of viticulture and winemaking. In 2006, a partnership was set up with the award-winning Ridgeview Wine Estate and the first vines were ordered.

In 2007, 46,000 vines over 28 acres were planted and the following year, another 38,000 vines were added over 22 acres. Today, there’s over 65 acres of vineyards on the estate.

Art explained that the key to producing these high-quality grapes for the sparkling wines comes from the great weather that enables them to grow, however, the high percentage of chalk, along with the upper layer of local flint stone, means the soil doesn’t retain the water for long, allowing the vines to form excellent roots to secure all the nutrients they need.

It was fascinating to hear all about the 2018 harvest which Art said would be a ‘Vintage of a Generation’. The weather that year was the best Tinwood has ever had, so they are expecting great things from the vintage.

Art believes that the key to the success of their premium sparkling wines is that they do not use machinery to pick the grapes. All of them are handpicked to ensure only the most perfect ones are used. The harvest begins in September and during the winter months, the grapes are tenderly cared for and warmed to avoid freezing.

Feeling thirsty for fizz, we took our seats back in the tasting room for the wine and cheese pairing. Our first tipple was the Blanc de Blancs, a pale gold 100% Chardonnay, that was accompanied with a Cornish Brie. The fine stream of delicate bubbles popped to the top and it smelt fresh and fruity. The refreshing aromas of green apple and tropical fruits fused with the balanced, lingering clean finish, meant I was not surprised that this seemed to be a favourite amongst the other tipplers.

The Brut was most like a champagne and was personally my favourite of the three we sampled. Paired with a local stilton, the 50% chardonnay, 30% pinot meunier and 30% pinot noir fusion, was really light and you could taste the hints of honey with the refinement added by the Pinots.

Last up was the beautiful salmon pink Rosé. Packed full of bubbles infused with English raspberry and strawberry flavours, the 60% pinot noir hinted at the classic red fruit, whilst the 20% chardonnay brought a lighter freshness. Perfectly paired with a Wensleydale cranberry cheese, this dry Rosé is ideal for a summer’s evening.

We thoroughly enjoyed our visit to Tinwood Estate. The one-and-a-half-hour tour and tasting was planned impeccably to inform guests but not overload them on the science and process. The whole experience was fun and relaxed, with ample opportunity to sit back and enjoy the stunning setting and soak up the ambiance.

Overnight stays in one the lodges start from £195 per night for two people including breakfast. 

Daily vineyard tours and wine tasting start from £18 pp and run daily at 3 p.m., and on Saturdays at both 12 p.m. and 3 p.m.. The cheese platter for two is an additional £14.

Sparkling Afternoon tea is £49pp, including tour, tasting (3 glasses) and food.

For further information and to book your tour, visit www.tinwoodestate.com

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