Discuss English wine with wine lovers and expect mention of large and successful industry names such as Nyetimber, Chapel Down, and Ridgeview; we have found this particularly noticeable when conducting our own tastings of English Wine. Our guests are often pleasantly surprised to find out that there are, in fact, over 550 more vineyards cultivating the vine for producing wine in England! Small, boutique growers are beginning to burgeon out across Great Britain and part of our Emerging Vines mission is to help give these emerging vineyards the recognition they deserve.
One such vineyard is the family owned Coolhurst Vineyards in West Sussex. After being blown away by their IEWA Silver Medal winning Lady Elizabeth Rosé 2014, we just had to make the trip up to Sussex to meet the owners and hear their story.
The Coolhurst Vineyards are nestled in the High Weald Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty in West Sussex. Whilst the drive up from Devon was far from relaxing, we were soon able to unwind as we cruised through the rolling South Downs. The family orientated nature of this vineyard became apparent from the outset as we were welcomed by cousins, Charlie and Will Scrase Dickins, who are part of a family estate stretching back over several generations. Both men took great pride in narrating their family lineage, whose Coat of Arms (granted by King George III) is the centre piece and heart of their brand.
Although we didn’t have the best weather on the day of our visit, it was clear the vineyard was beautifully located. Flanked by ancient woodland, a large lake, an 18th century deer park and a beautiful Elizabethan style house, the Coolhurst vines perfectly co-exist, as if they had always been there.
Following Charlie and Will, with Dachshund and Labrador in tow, we strolled amongst the recently burst leaves of 14,000 Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier, Chardonnay and Frühburgunder (Pinot Noir Précoce) vines. Charlie stooped down to pick up a chunk of sandstone and proceeded to point out a rusty brown layer of ironstone. He was eager to point out that the Coolhurst soil structure of sandstone and ironstone differs from the chalk seam that accommodates most of the other growers in the South East.
Each bottle of Coolhurst Sparkling Wine is produced from single varietals (from their single vineyard), from a single vintage; highlighting their unique terroir and varietal nuances. So far this diligence has been rewarded with two vintages of their Lady Elizabeth Rosé, a sublime sparkling wine made from 100% Pinot Noir (see tasting Notes for their 2015 vintage below). In 2016, they made their first Blanc de Blancs (due for release in 2020/21) and excitingly, 2018 saw the addition of a Blanc de Noirs using 100% Pinot Meunier.
Lady Elizabeth 2015
This wine is delicate pink in colour with a subtle amber glow. The nose is elegant, displaying hints of tangerine, vibrant red fruit and only a very subtle element of toastiness from its 23 months on the lees. This wine is beautifully balanced on the palate with intense red currant, nectarine and a creamy mid palate with a gentle mousse.
The Scrase Dickins family are lucky enough to have strong links to Provence in Southern France. Sourcing Cinsault, Grenache and Syrah, from some of their favourite growers in the Côtes de Provence A.O.C and having it vinified over there by a winemaker who understands their ethos to a tee, the Coolhurst brand extends to the production of a lip-smacking, elegant French rosé. Charlie kindly gifted us a bottle which we enjoyed over the bank-holiday weekend! Yes, we’re ‘all about English Wine’ but who doesn’t enjoy a Provençal rosé in the sunshine?
The passion and dedication exuded by the Scrase Dickins family bodes well for the further production of high quality English Sparkling Wine. While their Horsham vineyard is currently closed to the public, there are tourism related plans for the future so follow their journey on social media and keep your eyes peeled for further info.
Facebook: Coolhurst Vineyards