What a great way to spend an afternoon! It was supposed to be just a couple of hours, but as usual too much good wine and too much talking stopped me from going to my other planned event that day! Not that I'm complaining, as I learnt much about the vision of Bolney Wine Estate and their talented winemaking team with Sam Linter, the original owners' daughter, at the helm.
Bolney Wine Estate, near Haywards Heath in West Sussex, is one of the country's longest established vineyards, making wine for over 35 years. Situated on well-draining, sandstone-rich land listed in the Doomsday Book, the winery has already won many domestic and international awards and continues to invest in its future. Currently with 40 acres of vineyards, a new 66 acres site is soon to be added, enabling the winery perhaps to keep up with demand for their sought after wines.
With their heads in the clouds, BA First Class passengers can enjoy Bolney's Blanc de Blancs!
While literally keeping feet on the ground, the Bolney team is also flying high with the Vintage Blanc de Blancs available in British Airways First Class! So when the opportunity arrived to attend a tasting of Bolney wines at the newly relaunched Wine Pantry next to London's Borough Market, it was 'oh so easy' to accept the invitation.
There's quite a range of still and sparkling wine here to suit many different palates from those wanting something light and fresh with youthful exuberance to those seeking a fuller mouthfeel with savoury flavours complementing the fruit and zingy acidity. While some wines could benefit from further time in bottle, there's no denying the joy of comparing a range of aroma and flavour profiles in white, red and rosé wines (still and sparkling - and that includes red!) from a single English wine producer that's always looking to innovate and embrace the future.
The Bolney Blanc de Noirs 2015 was my pick of the sparklings with a lovely aromatic fruit profile, complemented by a touch of honey - a character present in many of these wines - and excellent balancing acidity.
The still wines included surely one of England's best reds, Bolney Pinot Noir, the latest 2016 vintage showing soft, fruity notes of cherries and red berries plus a light woody touch - a lovely example of cool climate Pinot.
Sparkling wine from Dornfelder - surely that's not possible? Well at Bolney it is! Blending with Pinot Noir, the result is a unique, sparkling red wine, dry yet full of ripe English summer fruit notes including redcurrants and cherries plus a little cranberry zing as well.
A partnership between Bolney and Kew Gardens has led to a series of four wines that celebrate both the biodiversity and environmental initiatives of the Royal Botanic Gardens and Bolney Wine Estate itself. The project began a year and a half ago with the sparkling wines released in May 2017 and the stills a couple of months later. Kew English Sparkling White is made from seven Germanic heritage varieties giving refreshing, floral and fruity notes of elderflower and citrus. Proof that sparkling wine with strong commercial appeal need not always be made from the traditional Champagne varietals.
Not that long ago, the very thought of a vertical tasting of English Pinot Noir still wine would have been unthinkable, let alone from a single brand, yet is exactly what Bolney managed to provide at this event. A fascinating set of vintages with plenty of character, the 2015 was especially elegant on the nose leading unsurprisingly to a silky palate of red fruit with a satisfying hint of oak and a little earthy touch too.
The vertical tastings didn't end there with five vintages of the Blanc de Blancs available, the 2011 particularly rich and concentrated. How great to be able to try all these wines back-to-back and I really didn't miss my other tasting at all!