Think outside of the wine box: visit a vineyard

“Even with social distancing in place, this is the ideal moment to pay a visit to British vineyards.” Susy Atkins, The Telegraph

As we ease ourselves out of lockdown, visiting a vineyard is the perfect day out – firstly, their big, open spaces make social distancing a breeze and, secondly, they’re local – you don’t have to travel far, you can walk or cycle, and you’re supporting local business. Stay modern, stay Sussex – win, win!

In recent years Sussex has inspired a new generation of creative pioneers. Working with the soil and climate, a modern winemaking industry has grown from the landscape and rapidly built an international reputation that’s giving Champagne a run for it’s money. With its high latitude, warm and dry maritime climate, and range of soil types Sussex has just the right characteristics and long seasons for growing grapes. In turn, this means there are plenty of excellent vineyards to go round, which is no bad thing in the age of social distancing! We are partnered with no less than nine widely awarded, world-class wineries all of which are welcoming visitors to enjoy what they have to offer – countryside locations, stunning views, good food and excellent wine, vineyard tours and wine tastings.

So where will you start your local wine adventure?

Rathfinny Wine Estate

Open now

Just outside of Alfriston, within the South Downs National Park, you’ll find the Rathfinny Wine Estate – home to award-winning Sussex Sparkling and some of the most superb views in the county. Picnics, to be enjoyed sat among the vines, can be pre-booked through Rathfinny’s Tasting Room which is open Weds – Sun, 11am – 6pm. If you fancy being more spontaneous, their Wine & Seafood Kitchen has a takeaway menu to die for and there’s no need to book. Order your oysters, lobster and chips, or seafood po’boys and find yourself somewhere scenic to settle. Oh, and don’t forget to grab a bottle of their Classic Cuvée or Blanc de Blancs to top it off. Their Cellar Door is open seven days a week, so there’s no excuse not to treat yourself to something to take home!

Staff pick: When you work at a world-class vineyard, where on earth do you go to drink? For team Rathfinny, their favourite watering hole is The Plough and Harrow in Litlington. There’s a beer garden, and an excellent choice of food, real ales and, of course, Sussex wines.

Join the dots: Bottle of wine in hand, head coastward to enjoy a glass overlooking the iconic chalk cliffs of Seven Sisters, or inland to the equally spectacular Firle Beacon. Nestled nearby is Charleston, once the home of Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant, and the Bloomsbury Group. Plan ahead and book a private session in their gorgeous artists’ gardens. See more on our route planner.

 

Click here to visit their website.

Bolney Wine Estate

Open now

Bolney Estate has been fully open to the public since early July which means you can enjoy everything the estate has to offer – rural countryside setting, local wildlife, their Eighteen Acre Café, vineyards, shop AND tours. It has to be said, the café and it’s viewing balcony have the most incredible views out over the vines. For the perfect summer picnic, with none of the hard work, pick up one of Bolney’s Picnic Boxes, we recommend the Cream Tea! In fact, the vineyard shop is packed full of goodies – as well as their award-winning wines, you can find a wide range of local produce from chocolate to charcuterie. For the full vineyard experience, treat yourself to a tour and wine tasting. As you stroll through acres of scenic vineyard, marvel at the wide varieties of grapes before indulging in the final product.

Recreate the visit from home, visit Bolney’s online shop, or gather family, friends and colleagues together for one of their Virtual Wine Tastings.

Staff pick: If you’re thinking more along the lines of a weekend away than a day out, or, dare we say it, a staycation, then Bolney have got you covered. They’ve got the inside track on the best hotels and B&B’s in the local area.

Join the dots: Located in the very heart of winemaking territory, it’s no surprise that nestled nearby are fellow wineries Albourne Estate, and Ridgeview Wine Estate. Spoiled for choice. See more on our route planner.

 

Click here to visit their website.

Oxney Organic Estate

Open now

Oxney Organic Estate is home to the ‘best-ever English wine’! We’re not exaggerating either – their Chardonnay received the highest score, a perfect 20/20 no less, from renowned wine writer Matthew Jukes. That is no small feat. So, if tasting a glass of the best ever Chardonnay isn’t reason enough to visit – let’s see how else Oxney can tempt you. Be quick to book a place on one of their sell-out Saturday Vineyard Tours; it’s well worth going the whole log and booking for the post-tour Picnic Lunch as well. We’re talking old-school willow picnic baskets, Sussex cheeses, charcuteries, bread, olives – the lot. Oh, and wine too of course, lest you forget you’re at a vineyard. Most of the tour and all of the tastings and picnic lunches take place outside in the gorgeous vineyards, so it’s a social-distancing dream. If you don’t make it to Oxney for a visit, do yourselves a favour and order a bottle, or six, of that Chardonnay from their online shop!

Staff pick: The team at Oxney recommend a visit to neighbouring Rye, a quaint and historical Sussex town. They’re also only a few miles from the beach – perfect for a stroll, or a dip at Camber. Enjoy a bite at The Owl, and treat yourself to an overnight stay at boutique hotel The Galivant.

Join the dots: For the full Sussex Modern experience, get your culture fix at Hastings Contemporary’s new Victor Pasmore exhibition, and drink in the unique landscape of Rye Harbour Nature Reserve – the saltmarsh, shingle and lagoons are a wildlife haven. See more on our route planner.

 

Click here to visit their website.

Wiston Estate

Open Days in September

Join Wiston Estate for one of their upcoming Open Days. Find them nestled in the heart of the South Downs – expect a warm welcome followed a private Wine Tasting for your group. Don’t pass up the opportunity for a self-guided tour of the vineyard; it is a relatively small, but simply idyllic vineyard and guests of the estate are welcome to stay and enjoy their own picnics. No picnic would really be complete without a bottle of Wiston’s finest – a bottle of Blanc de Blancs, Cuvée or Rosé perhaps? Or perhaps all the above, why not? Leaving the vineyard empty handed would be a real triumph of willpower. Book your slot online.

It’s worth keeping your eyes peeled for news on their Harvest Dinners, planned for October, all being well.

Staff pick: Pitch restaurant, Worthing, is run by 2018 Master Chef winner Kenny Tutt – it’s a fantastic place for lunch or dinner and is Wiston’s go-to recommendation. Similarly, they reckon you can’t go wrong with a stay at Historic Sussex Hotels.

Join the dots: Testament to Wiston’s prime location is the fact that it’s surrounded by some of Sussex’s most beloved, and photogenic landscape. Cissbury Ring is practically nextdoor, but if you cast your net a little wider you’ll be rewarded with Devil’s Dyke – the UK’s largest dry valley, and Amberley Wild Brooks Nature Reserve. Better pack your camera then! See more on our route planner.

 

Click here to visit their website.

Tinwood Estate

Open now

Boasting an impressively large wine terrace, Tinwood Estate is the perfect place to escape the crowded city pubs and bars, and enjoy a relaxing glass of something special with a view to match! It’s no hardship whiling away an afternoon out on the terrace, but it you’re keen to learn more about what goes on behind the scenes, tours are available at 3pm every day, with more on the weekends. For the full countryside getaway experience, book a night at one of Tinwood’s luxurious and tranquil lodges – it’s worth it for the views alone. Unsurprisingly, these lodges book up quick so don’t be twiddling your thumbs.

Staff pick: If you’ve mustered enough self-restraint to not get too carried away on the terrace, then a stroll to the ruins of Boxgrove Priory is in order. What’s left of the church, destroyed by Henry VIII, is free to explore and you’ll get some great photos. If you’re feeling energetic, you can also hike up to Halnaker Windmill. As well as overlooking the vineyards, there’s great views out to Chichester Harbour – you can even see Portsmouth in the distance.

Join the dots: Think art, landscape, and wine – the unique triangle of Sussex. For art, you needn’t go further than Pallant House Gallery, home to the best collection of Modern British art outside of London. For landscape, head to the ancient and mystical Kingley Vale and you won’t be disappointed. And wine? Well, I think we’ve got that covered. See more on our route planner.

 

Click here to visit their website.

Stopham Vineyard

Open now

This rural idyll in the South Downs is steeped in history – in fact, the original Stopham, or Stopeham, Manor gets a mention in The Domesday Book of 1086! The location is as peaceful as it is beautiful and, as of early August, the vineyards have reopened to the general public. The tours are limited to 10 people at a time, and include a guided walk around their award-winning vineyard, and the pretty Victorian barn which is home to Stopham’s winery. When booking, we recommend adding the lunch by the River Arun. All wine tastings are currently held outside which means you can relax and enjoy the views.

Staff pick: Both Arundel Castle and Petworth House are close by, and there are lots of great pubs around the place. According to the team at Stopham, you can’t go wrong with The Labouring Man in Pulborough.

Join the dots: Get back to nature with a visit to Amberley Wild Brooks Nature Reserve. Head to Amberley Village and from there you can explore some of the UK’s best wetlands, and an impressive array of wildlife. See more on our route planner.

 

Click here to visit their website.

Ridgeview Wine Estate

Open now

 Well, they don’t call it Ridgeview for nothing. You can enjoy the spectacular views of the vineyard from the socially-distanced haven that is the Ridgeview Wine Garden. Throw in a sparkling wine flight, a Sussex cheese and charcuterie platter, and possibly a pre-booked hamper if you’re feeling fancy, and consider yourselves set for the day. From the Wine Garden you’re also free to wander about the Chardonnay vineyard and stroll off some of that cheese – we’re speaking from experience! Throughout August, Ridgeview are participating in the Eat Out to Help Out scheme which, put simply, means you’d be silly not to visit. For a glimpse of sparkling wine production, a tour, followed by a wine tasting, is also on the cards. Numbers are limited so booking a place is essential.

 Staff pick: Ok, so lunch is sorted, but what about dinner? Happily, you don’t have to stray far to stumble across a number of very fine eating establishments with gorgeous gardens. Ridgeview’s top picks are The Bull at Ditchling, The Ginger Fox, Jeremy’s, and Ockenden Manor.  

Join the dots: Sandwiched, as it is, between Ditchling Museum of Art and Craft, and local beauty spots, Ditchling Common and Ditchling Beacon, it’s impossibly easy to join the dots and add some art, culture, and countryside to your itinerary. See more on our route planner.

 

Click here to visit their website.

Bluebell Vineyard Estates

Open now

Nestled on the edge of the Ashdown Forest near the historic Bluebell Steam Railway, you’ll find Bluebell Vineyard. The family-run vineyard now stretches over 100 acres. Visit at the right time of the year and you’ll find yourself surrounded by the bluebell-covered woodland that gave them their name. Join one of their tours, available Thurs – Sun, and drink it all in – literally. The tours are limited to 8 people at a time, so you’ll need to book your place in advance.

Join the dots: As it’s so close, surely it would be rude not to explore some of neighbouring Ashdown Forest. If it’s good enough for Winnie-the-Pooh…

 

Click here to visit their website.

Albourne Estate

Open now

Overlooking the South Downs, just 8 miles from Brighton, this boutique Sussex vineyard offers up some of the most delicious views, oh, and wines as well of course. Get your weekend off to a good start with a tour of Albourne’s 30 acre vineyard and winery on a Saturday morning, complete with a tutored wine tasting. If you prefer more wine and less tour, they run a tutored wine tasting every Saturday afternoon where you can sample the range of wines Albourne produces; from traditional and tank method sparkling wines to still wines, and one of the best English vermouths. Their brand new Tasting Room has only recently opened, and it is something to behold – just wait until you see the views! Advance booking is essential for all tours and tastings.

Join the dots: If staring out over the South Downs inspires you, you’ll find one of the national park’s most iconic spots nearby – Devil’s Dyke. Legend has it that the Devil dug this chasm to drown the parishioners of the Weald! The charming village of Ditchling is worth exploring and isn’t far; pop by Ditchling Museum of Art and Craft and find out about the area’s fascinating history. See more on our route planner.

 

Click here to visit their website.

 

Stay modern, stay Sussex – avoid the crowds and escape to the countryside. Wherever your Sussex wine adventure takes you, share it with us online. Follow us on our social media channels – InstagramTwitter and Facebook, and use the hashtag #StayModernStaySussex.

Interested in local Sussex wines?

Check out our very own Sussex Modern Wine Cases; each case features six bottles of award-winning wine from participating Sussex vineyards. Choose from our Still Selection, Sparkling Selection, or Mixed Selection. It’s a great way to sample a selection of wines from a number of local vineyards.

Click here to find out more.

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