A little thank you to the managers!

A pig farm has been turned into a gorgeous vineyard in East Sussex and it turned out to be the perfect setting for our Managers Appreciation Day.

It had been a really busy start to 2017 and after a particularly busy 1st quarter Alison Lloyd, our operations manager wanted to take the managers on a day out. What better than step out of London for the day and bond? We have listed wines from Bluebell Vineyards recently and knew of them through Neill McKenzie at Ellis Wines. Alison and Dean got in touch with them to see if we could combine our day out with a trip to their vineyard and winery - to add an informative nuance to our day out. They couldn't have chosen better.

Some of us based in London got on the train to Haywards Heath on a Saturday morning. Of course, we complicated logistics planning and got people to join us on the train along the way (and successfully managed not to miss trains!). The team based at Worthing was at the station when we arrived, and together we got on a coach for a short ride to get to Bluebell Vineyards!

This truly was a fantastic setting, driving past (no prizes for guessing) bluebells in the woods before we pulled into the estate gates. We were given a really warm welcome by Kevin (winemaker at Bluebell) and the resident labradors! Collette joined us and together we were all set for our tour of the vineyard and winery.

The vineyard & winery

Wine talk can be quite intimidating and some of us were not sure what to expect, but they put us at ease instantly. No question, for them, was too silly and they encouraged us to just ask whatever we wanted to know. After giving us a bit of context on their history, we set off on our tour of the vineyard. They have almost  25000 hectares of vines planted. These grounds used to be a pig farm and they started planting grapes there only in 2005. They have still retained a few of the features from the pig farm and use the pens to store wines safely. Their first commercial wine release was in 2007 (quite early for new vineyard standards, owing to the particularly fertile land) and have been making the award winning ‘Hindleap’ wines since.

Our visit, on the heels of a particularly frosty period this Spring, meant we could see for ourselves the effect of weather events on the grape vines. It brought to life a lot of things we only read about wines. After a tour of their picturesque vineyard, we headed into the winery to see the winemaking process. Each of us had a highlight for the trip and the winery bit was mine. Kevin and Collette’s knowledge of the winemaking process, their ability to put this into simple terms and make it approachable was commendable. They make sparkling wines in traditional method - using Champagne grapes - Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meuniere and also one with 100% Seyval and one 100% Chardonnay. We got to taste some of the tank samples while in the winery. It made us realise the immense transformation of the humble grape juice into sophisticated sparkling wine.

Wine tasting at Bluebell

After our tour of the winery, we sat down to taste some of their award winning wines. Again here, both Kevin & Collette encouraged us to experience the wine and it’s flavours in their own right. They told us that our recognition of flavour profiles in wine was very dependent on flavours we were exposed to as individuals over our lifetime. That it was OK not to have spotted the raspberry notes that somebody else did!

We tasted 6 different wines and needless to say they were all exceptional. I will not elaborate on the wines themselves - perhaps leave it to the wine experts. But what we learned there was definitely not something we would forget for a long time to come. We finished off the trip to Bluebell with a surprise present - a bottle of wine!

The day ended on a great note with a long lazy lunch at a local gastro pub. Getting out of London for the day is always fun and when it's a beautiful setting such as Bluebell Vineyards, it is all the more refreshing.

Bring on Q2!

(Special thanks to Bluebell Vineyards for sharing some of their photos with us for this article)