Best of English – Bolney Estate
Last week I was delighted to drive down to Sussex on a beautifully sunny English summer’s day to taste through Bolney Estate’s range of English wine. First planted in 1972 with Chardonnay, Dornfelder and Rondo, the estate has now expanded to cover 39 acres and includes further varieties such as Pinot Noir, Bacchus and Pinot Gris. Lying on a south facing slope close to the Sussex downs the bedrock is sandstone and is covered with Sussex loam. Fairly typical of many English vineyards the grapes are trained using a High Sylvoz system that keeps the deer away from the fruit and also allows a free flow of air around the base of the vines, helping to reduce the disease pressure from the moist English climate.
Plenty of investment in the winery and an attention to detail and quality have built this estate into a winery that England can be proud of on this Jubilee weekend. These wines are worth seeking out or better yet, take yourself off to Sussex and see the vineyard yourself on one of the estate’s tours
This is a blend of 80% Merlot and 20% Seyval Blanc that gives a raspberry and strawberry cream nose. Technically dry but there is a hint of residual sugar, which together with some lees character is balanced nicely by a refreshing acidity. Elderflower and green apple coming to the fore on the finish. A gentle mousse makes this a delicious aperitif.
60% Pinot Noir and 60% Pinot Meunier. These grapes normally go into the sparkling wine but a particularly ripe batch begged to be made into a still rosé. Light, refreshing, juicy berries, this wine isn’t pretending to be something serious, it’s fun, meant to be enjoyed casually and is perfect for those lazy warm summer days that hopefully will be returning to the UK soon!
Fragrant, aromatic nose of white flowers, elderflower and English meadows. This is quintessential Bacchus with a precise palate of delicate roses. There’s no hint of the bitterness from too long a skin contact that detracts from so many other Bacchus wines. This is refreshing, balanced, elegant and finishes very long indeed. Pour me a second glass please!
Spending 2½ years on the lees this English sparkling wine is as close to a good NV Champagne as you’re likely to find. Freshly baked bread and toasty with a light apple and quince fruit profile. This is a well made sparkling wine that displays balance and is fully deserving of its recent victory and Gold medal at the IWSC competition.
Spending 6 weeks in 2nd and 3rd fill oak barrels, ¾ of which are French and the rest American, helps to give a softly tannic wine that is dominated by cherry, raspberry and plum gently caressed by a whiff of smoke. Good quality English Pinot Noir is very hard to come by, often being overly acidic or displaying harsh green characters, but this wine fits the bill with its ripe fruit finish. This is supple, fun and thoroughly decent Pinot Noir, an English charmer.
We’re getting a bit more serious with this wine and its concentrated cherry, plum and blackcurrant nose. Juicy ripe fruit is supported by rounded tannins and an acidic bite that gives some definition. The finish is seasoned with a touch of spice and pepper. This blend of Rondo and Dornfelder shows that the UK can also make stylish red wines.
Made with 100% Pinot Noir and spending 18 months on the lees, this sparkler is all about refreshing berry fruit flavours. It’s straightforward, refreshing and charming, drink it with friends in the garden and enjoy it for what it is, fun in a glass.