Harvest taster experience at Tinwood Vineyard 28th September
Review by Editor Kris Thomas
The expression goes something like, “Do a job you love and you will never work a day in your life.” Picking grapes on a sunny September morning at the beautiful Tinwood vineyard certainly didn’t seem like hard work.
Tinwood Estate, situated in the pretty village of Boxgrove just outside Chichester, offers visitors a unique harvest experience and I was lucky enough to be invited along. After coffee and muffins in the stylish tasting room overlooking the vines, vineyard owner Art Tukker (pictured above) greeted his temporary harvest team and explained a little bit about the work and the history of his vineyard.
The land was initially an iceberg lettuce farm but Art and his wife Jody saw the potential for growing vines and set about making their dream a reality. Art had a farming background and proceeded to immerse himself in viticulture, studying for three years and travelling to New Zealand to do a Vintage, whilst at the same time developing the vineyard and building the hospitality areas.
In 2006 they became partners with the Ridgeview Wine Estate and the vines were ordered. In 2007 the first vines were planted – initially 46,000 vines over 28 acre. Then in 2008 a further 38,000 vines were planted over 22 acres. The most recent planting in 2015 added an extra 15 acres of vines to increase the total vineyard area to 65 acres. In 2009 they were rewarded with their first small crop of grapes.
Southern England has over recent years become good for growing wine grapes, Tinwood grow three grape varieties, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Meunier. Many English wines are sparkling, and this is the same at Tinwood. However, Art and Jody decided they would produce their sparkling wine using the traditional Champagne method, which takes three years to complete the natural fermentation process with the bottles being turned by hand to disperse the yeast. The final sparkling wine they produce has very fine, delicate bubbles, known as ‘mousse’ as compared to the larger bubbles in say Prosecco, which is produced in a much quicker timescale.
We spent a very pleasant couple of hours in the vineyard picking Pinot Noir grapes. Art had explained that due to this year‘s unseasonably hot weather, and the period of drought, the crop of grapes was smaller but that the grapes were extra flavoursome. Art was very excited about the quality of the 2022 grapes and explained that it would be a brilliant vintage. We worked in pairs on either side of the vines, picking only perfect grapes, leaving behind any showing signs of rot or damage. All the Tinwood grapes are picked by hand to ensure the best quality and the harvest takes up to 10 days in total. The regular team of pickers start at first light around 6am and usually work until late afternoon, so our couple of hours from 9.30 really wasn’t very arduous. The mood amongst the vines was convivial and relaxed as we chatted and picked the sweet grapes with the pleasant autumn sunshine warming us. We felt very satisfied to have picked a full row of grapes and to see the crates filling up with juicy fruit.
Returning to the tasting room we were served a delicious 3-course meal accompanied of course by wine from the Tinwood Estate. We were served a crisp and dry Blanc de blanc made with 100% Chardonnay grapes, the driest of the Tinwood wines. Following this we sampled the Brut, which is a mixture of all the Tinwood grapes grown in the vineyard. Roughly 45% Chardonnay , 35% Pinot Noir and 20% Pinot Meunier. It had a richer, fuller flavour than the Blanc de blanc. Finally we tried the Rosé, a gorgeous pale salmon colour wine with an abundance of fine bubbles and hints of ‘summer fruit’. Our glasses were liberally refilled and our generous hosts were also kind enough to bring in some red wine to accompany our cheese platter.
We concluded our harvest experience with coffee on the terrace overlooking the vines and a visit to the delightful shop. In addition to the wine for sale in standard bottle and also Magnum size, we perused Tinwood honey made from their own hives, Tinwood branded wine flutes, very reasonably priced candles made from recycled Tinwood wine bottles and a selection of gift boxes and vouchers all beautifully presented.
The Estate also have 3 lodges where guests can stay overnight in luxuriously appointed wooden cabins each with a private terrace overlooking the vines.
The vineyard is open every day and you do not need to make an appointment to visit and enjoy a glass of wine, coffee or have a tasting experience. Tinwood also offer seasonal evening dining, the next Dinner Series runs from Thursday 24th November to Saturday 26th November when Matt Crow from Sky Park Farm will produce a menu centred around the Venison from Sky Park Farm’s deer herds. See the menu and book tickets here: https://www.tinwoodestate.com/events/tinwood-dinner-series-no-23-matt-crow/
Tinwood Vinyard, Tinwood Farm, Halnaker, Chichester, West Sussex, PO18 0NE www.tinwoodestate.com
Open 7 days a week 9:00 – 17:30
Daily vineyard tour at 3pm year-round and an extra12pm tour on Saturdays in the summer.
Tel: 01243 537372 / email: [email protected]