Drive down the aptly named Vine Cross Road in Horam (East Sussex) and you will soon reach Hidden Spring Vineyard. From 1986 this vineyard flourished until the mid 2000s when the vines were grubbed and replaced with a campsite. Thankfully, this wasn’t the end of viticulture at Hidden Spring as the site has since been revived, replanted and revitalized into the successful English wine producer it is today.
It was a trip to New Zealand that inspired owners, David and Chris, to get their hands on a vineyard of their own. After an immersive day visiting a producer in Martinborough, they found themselves seriously entertaining the concept. Whilst we suspect this light-hearted conversation was initially the result of tasting their fair share of the good stuff, this provided the Englishmen with the motivation to follow their dream.
Upon returning to the UK, the duo spent 18 months searching for the perfect site before discovering Hidden Spring Campsite was up for sale. Upon their first visit to the site, panic ensued as they drove past a pre-existing sign for a vineyard….had someone had beaten them to it? After pulling into the campsite, they soon discovered that the ‘Hidden Spring Vineyard’ they had seen on the signs, no longer existed. The campsite they were about to purchase (and plant with Pinot Gris, Bacchus, Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier, Chardonnay and Cabernet Noir) had once been a well established English vineyard. The plot was undeniably suited to viticulture, benefiting from an elevation of between 55m and 75m above sea level, gentle slopes of clay soil and natural windbreaks spread around the property. The campsite ticked the boxes for the local consultant agronomists and it was about to get injected with a new lease of life!
In 2015 Chris and David left their London jobs and planted 24,000 vines across 13 acres of East Sussex. In 2018, they constructed a winery on site, ready to craft a range of still and sparkling wine that reflect this beautiful East Sussex vineyard. David is the head winemaker, having studied wine production in the US and UK, whilst Chris is the lead viticulturist.
We visited on a scorching day, where we were welcomed by the owners, along with sales manager Sam Kemp (currently studying at Plumpton). Flowering had just begun, so the vines were basking in the warmth. With the top of the vineyard being particularly high up, we were able to enjoy sprawling views of the South Downs through their rows of Pinot Gris. The fruit is precious and hungry deer are kept at bay by tall perimeter fencing, with birds deterred by protective nets.
After a long walk in the sun, we decided it was time for some wine. We made our way over to tasting room which benefits from beautiful shaded decking overlooking the vines, the perfect place to enjoy their range. As a relatively new producer, the Hidden Spring sparkling range is still mid production but we were impressed by the selection of still wines on offer. The two expressions of Bacchus (one of which we judged highly at the IEWA 2018) displayed an outstanding harmony of fruit, acidity and weight. Their Pinot Gris, however, was the star of the show, displaying huge amounts of fruit on the nose and palate, a gripping acidity and a salinity that added to an intriguing complexity. Given the success of this wine, we hope to see more Pinot Gris being produced here in the future.
The tasting room is open every weekend with regular pop-up restaurant events. This small producer packs a punch and is well worth checking out for yourselves. We’re excited to see what comes next from the team at Hidden Spring.
Support this small, independent producer by sharing this post and following them on their social media.