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Bolney Wine Estate


Bolney Wine Estate, Foxhole Lane, Bolney, West Sussex,

RH17 5NB.


I visited Bolney on April 18, 2015, and was fortunate to spend an hour or so in the company of Aimee Knight, the Retail Sales Manager. 


I met Aimee in the tasting room and we walked up into the vineyard where she showed me their best site of about eighteen acres which has Pinot Noir vines of some ten years old.  She explained that they had just ripped up some old Merlot and were currently re-planting with Chardonnay.  Further up the slope were Dornfelder, Chardonnay and Pinot Gris, and at the very top, the best Pinor Noir.  She told me that their Rondo vines are always the first to ripen.


Aimee then told me a little about the estate.


Rodney Pratt, one of the founders of the estate, was originally a Chemical Engineer who had spent a lot of time in Germany.  He became interested in winemaking through his interest in chemistry (something which has always fascinated me too!)  Rodney and his wife, Janet, bought the estate in 1972, when it was known as Bookers Vineyard and had only three acres of vines.  It was originally a chicken farm planted with some Muller-Thurgau and the family originally used it for personal production only until the late 1990s.


At that time, their daughter, Sam (Samantha Linter) expressed a desire to produce wine commercially and they began to realise the potential of the vineyard.  They planted more vines and started producing commercially in the 2000s.


The winery was built in 2006 with a DEFRA grant and Bolney is now one of the top five wine producers in the UK.  They produced 106,000 bottles in 2014 and are looking to increase production to more than 250,000 bottles within the next few years.


I asked Aimee whether sales had been affected by the financial crisis but she said that in view of their small size at the time, this did not have a huge impact.  Aimee said that they believe their strength lies in their wide range of wines.  They produce ten different styles of wines including both still and sparkling, and the volume of still wines strengthens their position in the market.  These wines are released to the market much earlier than sparkling wines and thus extremely important in terms of cash flow purposes.


Bolney wines are marketed through Waitrose, M&S, Bibendum, Davy’s and C&O Wines in the north of England.  They currently export to Japan, Germany and France, and will soon be exporting to Canada.  They are well represented in the south of England, and can also be found in independents such as Co-op and Budgens.



Aimee said that they would very much like to export to the US and Australia, however, consumers still need some convincing when it comes to English wines.  Bolney’s goal is to become the no. 1 for premium and super premium wines in the UK.


Bolney has teamed up with other local companies to become part of "Experience Mid Sussex", an umbrella company which promotes local businesses, including hotels, vineyards and attractions.


In addition to making and bottling their own wines, Bolney also make wine for other local wineries including Shoresgate and they did the bottling for London Cru.  They also provide bottling and labelling facilities for small local wineries.


I asked Aimee how Bolney differed from other wineries in the UK.  They are one of the few to use a sorting table to sort their grapes.  It is here that they pick out any snails, frogs, twigs, mouldy fruit, etc., a process which guarantees that only premium fruit enters the wines.  Another feature which makes them stand out is the wide range of wines which they produce. 


I asked Aimee about the 2014 vintage which I had read was extremely good in the UK.  Aimee confirmed that it was indeed a good vintage and that harvest had started during the second week in September.  Dornfelder and Rondo are generally the first to ripen and harvesting can continue for some weeks due to the wide range of varietals they produce.


I was interested to learn more about the soil types.  Aimee explained that the soil is predominantly a limestone base, with a sandstone top soil.  They do have some pockets of chalk but the aspect and microclimate has greater importance for them than the soil.


I was sorry to hear about the theft which Bolney suffered in February.  Aimee told me that someone had used a crowbar to open the door to the warehouse and stole 5000 bottles of wine.  She said that they had been very specific about what they stole and had taken the Blanc de Blancs and private label stock.


The Tasting


Lychgate White: This is a blend of Muller, Schonberger and Wurzer.  It was an extremely light and fruity wine, with a very aromatic nose of zesty limes, lychees and citrus.  It had medium (+) acidity and plenty of primary fruit flavours on the palate with fresh lemons, limes and a hint of elderflower.  It had a medium (-) finish.


Pinot Gris: 100% Pinot Gris.  This was also very fragrant and floral with aromas of pear, rose, and citrus.  Acidity was similar to the Lychgate White, however, the fruit tasted riper, with fresh pear, apple and a hint of honey.  The finish was longer; medium (+).


Bacchus: 100% Bacchus.  Aimee described Bacchus as “the Sauvignon Blanc of England”.  This wine had a very pronounced nose of gooseberry and elderflower, was also extremely aromatic, with plenty of ripe citrus fruits on the palate.  Acidity was slightly lower than the first two and finish was medium (+).  An extremely elegant wine and one of my personal favourites!


Bolney Rose: This is a blend of predominantly Pinot Noir, with some Dornfelder for colour.  An off dry rose with aromas of red cherries and redcurrants.  The palate had an abundance of red fruit, raspberries, red cherries and red apples.  Acidity was medium, it was a crisp clean wine without a hint of oak, with a medium (-) finish.


Lychgate Red: This is a blend of Dornfelder and Rondo.  Medium ruby in colour with a nose of juicy plums, black cherries and some sour cherries.  This wine had high acidity, low tannins and flavours and aromas of smoke, tar and leather.


Pinot Noir: 100% Pinot Noir.  This was an extremely pale ruby red wine, with a medium (-) body.  It had red cherries and redcurrants both on the nose and palate, with medium acidity, low tannins and a medium finish.  It was extremely typical of a young cool climate Pinot Noir.


Bolney Bubbly: This is a non-vintage blend of Chardonnay and Muller-Thurgau.  Water-white, this wine was extremely light bodied, with a hint of residual sugar.  Aged for eighteen months, this wine had plenty of ripe citrus flavours on both the nose and palate.  Those Prosecco drinkers amongst you will love this wine!


Blanc de Blancs: 100% Chardonnay.  I tasted the 2009 vintage, which had been aged on the lees for four years.  (Aimee told me that the Blanc de Blancs are typically aged for a minimum of two and a half years on the lees.)  This was the award winner!  It had high levels of acidity, with plenty of citrus, green apple, vanilla, brioche and biscuity notes on the palate.  It was not cloying like some Blanc de Blancs; the acidity kept it really refreshing.  It was extremely smooth, with a medium (+) body and medium (+) length.  Superb wine and another of my personal favourites!


Cuvee Rose: 100% Pinot Noir.  The 2010 vintage and the stand out wine of my visit.  It had the most unique aromas of mushroom, camembert and aged brie on the nose, which followed through on the palate.  It was less strawberries and cream and more savoury, almost salty and a touch umami.  This had been aged for two and a half years on the lees and had a creamy mouthfeel and a medium (+) finish.  It reminded me of a vegetal Pinot Noir in a sparkling wine.  Absolutely stunning!


Cuvee Noir: 100% Dornfelder.  This was medium ruby in colour and had aromas of redcurrants and ripe blueberries.  These were also in evidence on the palate, together with smoke and tar from the time this wine spent in oak.  This wine had medium (+) acidity and a medium (+) finish. 


I would like to express my thanks to Aimee for her hospitality, and would thoroughly recommend a visit to Bolney.  They are producing some beautifully clean, pure fruit driven wines and should be commended for their efforts in promoting our home grown produce.


Copyright of - April, 2015

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