Bolney Wine Estate: pioneers of English wine

Bolney Wine Estate: pioneers of English wine

Bolney Wine Estate: pioneers of English wine

by Great British Chefs6 February 2024

When Bolney Wine Estate planted its first vines over fifty years ago, it was one of just a handful of vineyards beginning to pave the way for the English wine revolution. Since then, it has become one of the country’s most celebrated producers.

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Bolney Wine Estate: pioneers of English wine

When Bolney Wine Estate planted its first vines over fifty years ago, it was one of just a handful of vineyards beginning to pave the way for the English wine revolution. Since then, it has become one of the country’s most celebrated producers.

Great British Chefs is a team of passionate food lovers dedicated to bringing you the latest food stories, news and reviews.

Great British Chefs is a team of passionate food lovers dedicated to bringing you the latest food stories, news and reviews as well as access to some of Britain’s greatest chefs. Our posts cover everything we are excited about from the latest openings and hottest food trends to brilliant new producers and exclusive chef interviews.

It’s never been easier to love – and buy – English wine. Its reputation for everything from crisp whites to well-balanced reds is stronger than ever, thanks to the hundreds of thriving vineyards around the country and regular wins in some of the world’s most prestigious competitions. But that hasn’t always been the case; for a long time English vineyards had something to prove, living in the shadows of those from more established wine-producing regions. That was certainly the case in the 1970s, when Bolney Wine Estate first began its journey and became just the sixth commercial vineyard operating in the country. Fifty years later, the estate, which is perched on the edge of the South Downs, is now home to vineyards which are responsible for award-winning red, white, rosé and sparkling wines. 
 
It was in 1972 that Bolney's founders Janet and Rodney Pratt first bought a parcel of land and set out on their wine-making journey. From the first planting of Muller Thurgau vines, which produced a floral white wine, to the introduction of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay vines in the 1980s, understanding the land and being guided by nature has always been the winemakers’ ethos. Since the turn of the millennium, the estate has flourished, adding new vineyards, a winery, café, restaurant and tours and tastings.
 
The backdrop might have been ever-changing, but the quality of the wine stayed consistent. Since its first award in 1985, Bolney Wine Estate has scooped accolades in everything from the Decanter World Wine Awards to WineGB and Champagne and Sparkling Wine World Championships, while its Pinot Gris made history when it became the first English wine to be served at Wimbledon. What arguably sets it apart from its peers is its range; there’s finessed fizz, beautifully balanced whites and elegant rosés, sitting alongside its delicate reds. The cooler climate in the UK has long made ripening red grapes more difficult – a few years ago, it was thought only around 10% of wine produced in England and Wales was red. Bolney Wine Estate was one of the first vineyards to show what’s possible, a legacy that has helped put English reds on the map and of which it’s unsurprisingly proud.
 

The principles which guide the Bolney Wine Estate team have also remained the same. Its guided by nature ethos is rooted in an understanding of its terroir; they have spent decades developing an understanding of the potential of its mild climate and sandstone soils, learning what thrives in its ecosystem. That’s shown through its focus on sustainability – prunings are mulched back into the soil, recycling is widespread and local suppliers are celebrated, for example – including its Bolney Estate Gin and Bolney Estate Rosso Vermouth (which earned a gold medal in the World Vermouth Awards 2022). They are made using waste wine and press juice, which is saved and distilled back into the spirits, while berries and other infusions are foraged from the hedgerows on the estate.
 
Though the wine will always be paramount, in recent years it’s become more important than ever for vineyards to become destinations, catering to a growing number of wine tourists looking for a memorable day out. At Bolney Wine Estate, tours and tastings have become a central part of vineyard life. A range of packages – shaped around everything from cheese and wine pairings to seasonally focused tours – allow visitors to stroll through the vines, learn about its grapes and be tutored on its wines. There’s also a busy calendar of events running throughout the year, ranging from exclusive chef’s dining experiences to the popular afternoon tea in the vines. And while at the estate, guests can enjoy the views and ambience in the Eighteen Acre Café, or tuck into the seasonal and locally sourced dishes at the Eighteen Acre Restaurant.
 
It is early pioneers like Bolney Wine Estate that continue to show the world what makes English wine so special and have inspired others to follow in their footsteps and learn the craft. Over the last fifty years, the estate has continued to be a leader in its field, evolving and innovating and producing world-renowned wines.