Gilly Smith talks to Sam Linter about life on The Bolney Wine Estate
Baubles and berries, bottles and bubbles, it’s all just one big excuse, this Christmas malarkey, to deck the halls and be very jolly indeed. But we’re not about that consumerist nonsense over at Whistler Towers. We’re all about zero waste and making stuff, eating local produce and supporting the neighbours. So how to feast and have fun without maxing the landfill? Come closer; we have some sparkling ideas.
One of the real treats of living in Brighton is the bounty of great produce on our doorstep, and increasingly, that means some pretty amazing wines too. Ding dong! There’s a couple of Christmas present ideas already. Plus, a wine tour is a great day out for all the rellies, and we’re still only on paragraph two. But wine? Sustainable? How?
Well, climate change may not have a lot going for it, but the warming of our southern vineyards is at least creating a rather vibrant industry, with experts claiming that some of our chalk soil compares favourably to that of the Champagne region of France. And while English wines have been a thing since the Romans, this relatively new industry has attracted some pretty cool people who care about much more than the sound of the cash till.
Cindy-Marie Harvey is the author of Watercress, Willow and Wine and told me that the English wine industry is setting new standards in sustainable business practice. “I think wine GB has been absolutely brilliant,” she told me on my podcast Cooking the Books. “If you look at a winery at harvest time, the amount of water that you need just to keep everything clean, it’s a phenomenal amount. For one litre of wine, you probably need ten litres of water. There’s a whole host of sustainable criteria that you have to look at before you can actually get the Sustainable Wines of Great Britain badge, but that means that customers can trust what they’re buying.”
Within an hour’s drive or so from Brighton, we have some of the best wines in the south east, many of which are leading the field in sustainability. Ridgeview in Ditchling, the organic Davenports in Rotherfield in the Low Weald, Rathfinney in Alfriston, Bolney, just 20 mins from Brighton, Wiston, Breaky Bottom, the mighty Nyetimber, how spoilt are we? And Plumpton College just down the road is training up the next generation even as I write.
Winemaker Sam Linter has lived almost her whole life at Bolney vineyard after her parents bought up an old pig farm in the 1970s, inspired no doubt by the TV sitcom The Good Life.
“We had goats on site, so mum did the goat’s milk, the goat yoghurts, the cheese she used to sell to local deli’ Sam told me when I interviewed her for the delicious podcast. “She would drive all over to sell them. She grew marrows, tomatoes, courgettes, sweet corn, we had strawberries on site here. And it was fun. It was a great childhood. My brother and I ran wild.”
That Good Life ethos lives on at Bolney since Sam has taken the reins from her parents and built a business that has become a leader in English wines. Its cuvee rose even had a rep from Laurent Perrier recently scratching his head at which was his in a taste off. And with pips and skins used to make gin and other by-products, its wine production creates a virtuous circle. They even have a wine bottle Christmas tree at the entrance to the winery restaurant.
On which… what a find for a posh lunch over the holidays. Its Eighteen Acres Cafe overlooking the vineyard gets our loudest Whistle for quality, service and price with a fabulously instagrammable menu. And it’s even dog-friendly! To celebrate the festive season, Bolney is also running some tastings throughout December. A £12 ticket will buy you a tasting of three wines, paired with festive themed canapé plus a Bolney branded ISO tasting glass to take home. Or to give away as a Christmas present.. And if you prefer a little music with your wine tastings, you can enjoy a charcuterie board and glass of Bolney Bubbly for £30 per person every Friday evening in December.
Listen to Gilly’s podcast with Cindy-Marie fromher podcast show “Cooking The Books with Gilly Smith https://podcasts.apple.com/gb/podcast/cindy-marie-harvey-watercress-willow-and-wine/id1499255116?i=1000590240914
And also Gilly’s interview with Sam for the delicious podcast from June 2019
Bolney Wine Estate Foxhole Ln, Bolney, Haywards Heath RH17 5NB
More details at https://bolneywineestate.com/whats-on