Sussex is fast becoming a highly regarded international wine destination, with wine tourism becoming more and more popular. So (as part of our series of articles about Sussex wines), on this West Sussex wine tour, we take you via the historic towns of Horsham, Petworth, and Pulborough as you discover some of our wonderful West Sussex vineyards.
Historic Horsham has plenty on offer for the first stop of your tour. It has a central market square with a twice-weekly market, a theatre, two cinemas, and a music and comedy venue, as well as some exceptional restaurants like South Lodge, Interlude and The Chequers at Rowhook. For exploring and for local walks, escape to Leechpool and Owlbeech Wood, St. Leonard’s Forest, the Downs Link or Leonardslee Lakes and Gardens. For more cerebral pursuits, head down the historic Causeway to the town’s museum.
Vineyards and wines
Villa Elena is just south of Horsham and although small, they grow Pinot Gris, Pinot Noir, Bacchus and Seyval Blanc. They produce just one still wine at the moment, but you can visit the vineyard by arrangement, and they seem to have quite a unique and alternative vibe.
Mannings Heath Golf & Wine Estate is part of the Benguela Collection, which consists of nearby Leonardslee Lakes and Gardens as well as Benguela Cove Wine Estate in South Africa. They have 30 acres of Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Meunier and hope to produce their first vintage of estate English sparkling wine in 2023. They also have a new winery planned for 2022. They offer vineyard tours by golf buggy and then wine tastings of Benguela Cove wines, all while overlooking the vines.
Coolhurst Vineyard. Not far from Mannings Heath and Horsham, this family-run vineyard is fast gaining a reputation for producing one of England’s finest sparkling rosé wines produced from 100% Pinot Noir and named Lady Elizabeth. They also produce an almost unique traditional method vintage rosé demi-sec; thought to be the only one in the UK, also 100% Pinot Noir. They don’t offer tours yet but watch this space.
House Coren. Very recently planted, House Coren at The Haven just west of Horsham produce an almost unique sparkling wine using the Charmat method, a technique where the wine undergoes secondary fermentation in sealed tanks rather than in the bottle. This vineyard is small but buzzing with energy and a stated intention to be accessible to nervous wine novices who want to visit. They are also in the process of building their own winery so again, watch this space.
Places to stay in Horsham
For top-of-the-range places to stay, South Lodge and Leonardslee just to the east of the town are a must. The Windmill Inn is a 17th century country pub with lots of period charm, great reviews and at a convenient spot just south of Horsham and not far from the Downs Link. For something a bit more off the beaten track, you could try the 16th century country hotel, Random Hall, just outside Slinfold. You can find out more about Horsham here: Visit Horsham
Stage two of our West Sussex wine tour takes you to Petworth, a stunning market town that has so much to see and do. It has the fabulous and historic Petworth House and Park (a National Trust property), art galleries, antique shops and markets, monthly farmers markets, a number of heritage sites, and, of course, beautiful architecture. If you’re spending any time in Petworth, you should always take a little time to explore the South Downs or discover nearby Midhurst with its historic ruins, or Chichester just a little further south.
Petworth may not have a theatre, but they do have the oldest street fair in the south of England (in November), Petworth Festival (a music and arts extravaganza in the summer), a Literary Week (in October), an Antiques Fair (in May) and its own Petworth Fringe! Good watering holes are also in abundance and include E. Street Bar and Grill in Petworth, Farmer, Butcher, Chef at Goodwood Hotel and The Lickfold Inn near the town.
Vineyards and wines
Roebuck Estates. Based in Tillington, just west of Petworth, Roebuck Estates first planted their Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier back in 2006 and now have vineyards across Sussex at Blackdown, Lurgashall, Slinfold, Bewl Water Reservoir and just east of Petworth at their Roman villa site. They are also a sustainable wine producer as certified by Sustainable Wines of Great Britain. Majoring in sparkling wine they are proud recipients of a number of awards and although they don’t offer vineyard tours and tastings, you can buy their wines at the wine merchants in Petworth if you want a fully local experience.
Upperton Vineyard. First planted in 2005, Upperton, also in Tillington, currently has 6,000 vines producing between 6,000 and 10,000 bottles per year. Again, they grow a mixture of Chardonnay, Pinot Meunier and Pinot Noir for their sparkling wine and they offer private vineyard tours and wine tasting which culminate on their rather gorgeous terrace with views across the South Downs.
Blackdown Ridge. North west of Petworth and somewhat off the beaten track, the first vines were planted here in 2010 and these were used to create this vineyard’s first sparkling wine in 2015. Blackdown is already multi award-winning and they have now also planted Bacchus, Triomphe and Sauvignon Blanc for their still wines. They offer tours of their vineyard and winery which end with a tasting session of their still and sparkling wines in this beautiful and very tranquil corner of West Sussex.
Tinwood Estate. A 20-minute drive south west of Petworth, Tinwood Estate first planted their vines in 2007, and have since gained quite a reputation for their sparkling wines which include a rosé. They offer vineyard tours which conclude in their swank and stylish tasting rooms with its glass-covered veranda and fabulous views. They also do afternoon teas.
Places to stay in Petworth
For this leg of your tour, you could stay at the Tinwood Estate in one of their luxury vineyard lodges, with views over the vines and the setting sun or you could opt for the nearby Goodwood Hotel. Just outside Petworth is the delightful Old Railway Station where you can stay in a beautifully refurbished railway carriage or stay in the town itself in the historic Angel Inn.
On the last leg of your West Sussex wine tour, Pulborough is a bit of a must because it has such a cluster of vineyards. In the surrounding area, you also have the West Sussex Golf Club, Pulborough Brooks RSPB nature reserve, Bignor Roman Villa, Parham House and Gardens and of course nearby Arundel with its magnificent castle, cathedral and quirky historic town. If you have time, you should also visit Amberley Museum and have one last ramble along the South Downs.
For fine dining, The Parsons Table in Arundel and Amberley Castle’s restaurant are both outstanding. Or head to The White Hart right next to Stopham Bridge which is a beautiful Grade I listed building and a Scheduled Monument believed to date back to 1422-3. If it’s entertainment you’re after, try and coincide your visit with one of the events held at Kinsbrook Vineyard. They have live music every Sunday from the spring onwards as well as hosting various other events.
Vineyards and wines
Stopham Vineyard. The first vineyard you come to as you travel from Petworth, Stopham was first planted in 2007 and they produce still and sparkling white wines from their Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc, Auxerrois, Bacchus, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grape varieties. They have their own winery in a converted Grade II listed Victorian barn and offer vineyard, winery and wine tasting tours. Their particular claim to fame is having been chosen for the Queen’s party on the Royal Barge at her Diamond Jubilee celebrations.
Kinsbrook Vineyard. On a sunny day, Kinsbrook has a distinctly French vibe and you can grab a coffee and enjoy it in the vineyard itself. They first planted in 2017 as an extension of the family farm and now have over 45, 000 vines. They have their own Pinot Gris and Bacchus, and a vintage Cuvée made from Hampshire grapes. They offer tastings and tours and have a KIN Bubble in one of the fields where there is an informal café and wine bar as well as a horsebox café. There are also plans afoot for a new farm shop and eatery.
Nutbourne Vineyard. On the edge of the West Sussex Literary Trail, Nutbourne describe themselves as a boutique family vineyard that produces still and sparkling wine. They first planted as long ago as 1979 and have 26 acres under vine, planted with Bacchus, Huxelrebe and Reichensteiner, as well as Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier, Chardonnay, Pinot Gris and Pinot Blanc. They even have the remains of an old windmill! They do vineyards trails, tours, and tastings which include vineyards picnics with seasonal Sussex produce from the farm and kitchens.
Nyetimber. One of our Sussex big guns, and right next door to Nutbourne, Nyetimber claim to be able to trace their winemaking heritage back to the Domesday Book. More recently, the current Nyetimber enterprise planted their first Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier vines in 1988 and have gone on to win lots of awards for their sparkling wine. Throughout the year they have specific open days when you can enjoy a wine tour followed by a tasting in their 15th century barn.
If you’ve enjoyed this West Sussex Wine Tour, look out for our Central Sussex Wine tour which will be in the next edition of our Sussex Exclusive Magazine.
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