Boutique tour & tasting at Tinwood Estate
13th August 2014
I’m endlessly fascinated, not just by the stories of wine production, but of how people came to be in the business of making wine in England & Wales. We hear quite often about people making money in other fields, like medicine or IT, the City or Formula 1 which enables them to make their dream of owning a vineyard come true, whether on a modest or massive scale. The story of Tinwood Estate is rather different and involves lettuces, of all things.
I’d been meaning to go to Tinwood for some time, but various things got in the way. So when I happened to have an appointment in the area I leapt at the chance and I really couldn’t have picked a better day to enjoy this beautiful spot.
Tinwood is situated in the Sussex village of Halnaker on the edge of the Goodwood Estate. It is owned and run by Art and his partner Jody. Art’s parent’s came to Tinwood Farm from the Netherlands some 30 years ago. One of their key crops on the farm was iceberg lettuces, which was quite unusual in the early days. As that crop became more competitive, though, thoughts turned to what else they might grow on this not particularly fertile chalky, flinty soil. Any ideas? Yes, they heard tell of the soil being similar to champagne and gave it a go. Not surprisingly, the grapes grown are the classic Chardonnay, Pinot Noir & Pinot Meunier. The vines, as you might expect, flourish; this is more than can be said for the row-end roses, which don’t like the conditions at all, showing clearly the poor soil.
My other commitments meant that I arrived about an hour before the scheduled Wednesday afternoon tour and although it was a delightful spot to sit awhile, Jody kindly offered to do the vineyard part of the tour for me first so that I didn’t have to wait – although she promised faithfully to give me the same experience as other visitors. The fact that the tours are restricted to small groups and conducted personally by Art or Jody themselves means that they can adapt to the level of knowledge of the audience, whether that’s wine aficionados or Hen Party groups who only want a brief look at the vines before tucking into the pink fizz!
A total of around 55 acres are currently under vine, across 3 vineyards. We went into the vineyard opposite the terrace, in the row between the Chardonnay and Pinot Meunier so as to see the difference between them. I heard about the history, practices and plans of Tinwood Estate and it was fascinating on such a hot day to feel how the sun had warmed the flint and how dusty the soil was only a day after heavy showers.
There is a lovely view over the vines from a small wooden platform from where you can almost see the sea. This can also be used for small, personalised tastings – just one example of how the visitor experience is really paid attention to.
A high proportion of the grapes are sold toRidgeview, who also make the three Tinwood Estate sparkling wines on contract – a Brut, a Blanc de Blancs and the crisp Estate Rosé. The small production under their own label is just sold on the Goodwood Estate, including being served at the exclusive nearby The Kennels private members club, and at the cellar door – meaning that it truly is a boutique label.
We walked back from the vineyard to the stylish terrace via Jody’s bee hives (she’s a self-confessed bee geek!) Although vines are self-pollenating, the presence of bees is always a good sign of a healthy ecosystem. They also make delicious honey.
The next guests were a couple, so the three of us enjoyed a tasting on the delightful terrace, reminiscent of a New Zealand winery together with the stunning cheese board. There’s always a balance between the visitor-experience and the overhead of staff effort and potentially wasted food. I was thoroughly impressed with José Luis Ferrer in Mallorca and I think the idea of being able to pop in for a glass or a bottle and a platter of cheese or charcuterie makes perfect sense. Obviously the nameless UK vineyard I went to where 3 pieces of ice cold cheese were served directly from the packet and therefore almost tasteless, has a way to go, but that at Tinwood was perfect. A little bite to eat enables the visitor to taste the wine in a more relaxed fashion – it’s a tourism experience not a competition tasting!
As we tasted, Jody talked about the process of making traditional method fizz. Bringing the process to life, she upturned a bottle that had been nicely riddled to create an unpleasant looking cloudy liquid – a simple technique, but a great way to demonstrate it.
Regarding the wines, the hot summer day really brought out the best in the Blanc de Blanc showing delightful freshness, we then moved on to the Brut, a lovely blend with a bit more weight to it. Finally the rosé, looking a pretty salmon pink yet tasting very grown up.
As I mentioned, they don’t make the wine at Tinwood; now I’m as fond as anyone of a nice stainless steel tank, but I think they demonstrate very well that you can have a very good visitor experience without a winery. If you don’t feel that a tour without a winery would give you enough, I’d still suggest a visit for a cheese platter and tasting – it’s a great opportunity to taste a high quality, boutique fizz in delightful surroundings. Thinking, as we are now, towards the harvest, they also offer a day’s experience on three dates in October including picking, tasting a tour and a 3 course lunch. See our WineCellarDoor website for more vineyards looking for help with harvest.
It took me a while to get around to going to Tinwood, but I’ll definitely be going back.
Shared by Elisabeth Else
Glass of Bubbly
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