English Wine Week

Looking back to when we could freely travel around, to celebrate English Wine week this story tells you about our trip last year, which hopefully we will all be able to repeat soon.

This week is English Wine Week.  According to Eric Heerema, CEO and owner of Nyetimber, one of England’s most prized sparkling wine producers, southern England has the ideal combination of climate and Soil.

Above: Fiona (left), Jo (right) and Kevin Sutherland of Bluebell Vineyard. 

When Joanna Lunn (VSC Event Sales Manager) and Fiona Karn-Smith (Acting Communications and Marketing Manager) were invited by the VSC’s wine supplier Ellis of Richmond to one of England’s award-winning vineyards to taste their English Sparking Wine, the girls jumped at the chance.

Ellis of Richmond supply the Club with a superb sparkling wine called Hindleap, produced at Bluebell Vineyard. Bluebell Vineyard is located in the heart of Sussex on the edge of the Ashdown Forest and is an award-winning family-run vineyard and winery. Their wine is crafted using the traditional method of production (like Champagne) and Bluebell strives to produce wines with the perfect balance of fruit character, acidity and ageing.  All Bluebell wines are vintage wines, that is to say they are made exclusively from grapes grown in a single year. This means that every Hindleap and Ashdown Vintage is unique, since their first commercial release from the 2007 vintage, their wines have gone onto critical acclaim.

After a 60-minute train journey from London Victoria the girls arrived at Bluebell vineyard on a wet and grey October day and were to their surprise they were put straight to work where they had to collect the grape harvest which would be used for the 2020 vintage. The girls were advised to wear wellies, (which included a quick trip to the shops on Oxford Street the day before), but they missed the memo about rain coats so ended up cutting the grapes with an umbrella in hand, without much success, this only meant only one thing, they had to retire early in search for some tastings, but they were too early, coffee was the only beverage available at this time.

Above: Jo put to work picking grapes.

After a wander around the vineyard and looking at the different grape varieties, it was lunch time, a massive buffet was laid out for everyone to enjoy and to Jo and Fiona’s delight the corks were popped and fizz was poured. They tried a Hindleap sparkling rose, Classic Cuvee and Blanc de Blancs, the VSC currently stocks the Blanc de Blancs. The girls were then led on a tour of the vineyard by Head Winemaker Kevin Sutherland, where they were taught about the wine making process - The vines are carefully nurtured and hand harvested before small bath fermentation. Blending the wines before the second fermentation and ageing for a minimum nine months(17 months in practice) imparts a distinct imprint of terroir to the Champagne quality.

Once the tour had finished, the girls purchased a couple of souvenirs (bottles of sparkling wine), pulled off their wellies and headed home back to London. Despite the weather, It’s fair to say they had a wonderful day!

English sparkling wine is becoming frequently popular throughout the UK and some say it rivals Champagne. When the Club re-opens after Covid-19, please do sample some of our range of English sparkling wines.

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