Who needs a ploughman’s when you can have a vigneron’s?
While stuck in traffic on the way to a business meeting last week, I looked to my right and thought “those are vines over there”. I checked them out after the meeting to find that they belong to Highdown Vineyard (West Sussex). There was a nice clear sign mentioning a winery shop, tea room and restaurant, so after my meeting I headed straight back for some lunch.
I had a tasty bowl of mushroom soup with a generous baguette and a small glass of their own red wine, but spotted the Vigneron’s platter on the menu – a selection of cheeses or hand carved ham with chutney, grapes, coleslaw, salad garnish & rustic bread. Served, of course, with a glass of Highdown red, rosé or white. What a nice idea! The menu also included a Special Occasion English Sparkling Cream Tea and some delicious looking cakes. The wine was just part of the experience rather than being made a big fuss about, the restaurant is no doubt popular with people not particularly interested in wine, but making English wine a normality is no bad thing.
The room was a light and airy barn style with a wood-burning stove and thirty or so people enjoying lunch with a view of the vines. On the A259 between Worthing and Angmering and not far off the A27, it’s a good meeting place.
It’s obviously all hands to the pump at the moment as I spotted the owners Paul and Aly Englefield delivering plates of food to the tables. Aly seemed upbeat with the grapes being avidly watched and acidity tested twice a week to determine the best time to pick. The warm nights have lowered the acidity and she doesn’t think it will go much further, so the picking will start from now on; crates had been left out next to the first couple of rows for the coming weekend. They will be wine-making up the road at Nutbourne this year and are particularly looking forward to making wine with the Rondo grapes, which they have previously used for red, but found makes a lovely rosé. One thing I didn’t know, but probably should have done, is that to enter the bigger competitions, wine-makers need to have 2,000 bottles of the same wine. Highdown have previously struggle with that, but hope to have the quantity and quality for some good performance this year.
I went afterwards into the shop, which seemed a bit sparse. There was no-one in there (although there was a bell to summon assistance) and no wines looking ready to taste, which was a shame, as I would have liked to try the other wines. I do think a self-guided walking tour with tasting afterwards adds to the experience and increases sales.
Overall, a great discovery. As often seems to happen, it’s very close to places I have to be from time to time, so I will look forward to watching the progress at Highdown.
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