The Tinwood Estate is a wine estate that I knew about but had never visited. It is situated close to Goodwood, near Chichester, which is one of my favourite places on earth. As a member there, I have driven past the signs for the past ten years or more while visiting the motor circuit. Over that time, I had seen more and more vines being planted along the A285 around Halnaker, not all of which belong to Tinwood, showing it to be a prime area for viticulture. So when I was invited to visit Tinwood for a wine tour and tasting, I accepted with alacrity.
‘Dragging’ my colleague Marcus down with me, we arrived on a splendidly hot and sunny Tuesday afternoon in mid-August for our tour and tasting at 3pm. On arrival, it is clear that this is a very well designed set up. The original building houses the warehouse, but set beyond that with views over the vines is a fairly recently added and terrifically designed tasting room with a huge and very beautiful decking area with tables and parasols, all surrounded by some gorgeous colourful planting. It resembles some of the wine estates in South Africa, immediately welcoming and offering a welcome sanctuary from the outside world.
We were shown to our table and were soon greeted by Rebecca Murphy, their charming Business Development Manager, who invited us to go down to the vines for a brief introduction to the estate. Originally one of the largest iceberg lettuce farms in England, it was developed into a vineyard by the owner’s son Art Tukker, who had first had the idea for a vineyard while at university. After spending time in New Zealand learning about viticulture, he started by planting 46,000 vines over 28 acres in 2007 and then a further 38,000 vines over 22 acres the following year. The most recent planting in 2015 saw an extra 15 acres of vines being planted to increase their total vineyard area to 65 acres.
The vines include all the traditional Champagne varietals – Chardonnay (50%), Pinot Noir (30%) and Pinot Meunier (20%). The vineyard is a partnership with Ridgeview, in West Sussex, which is where the vinification process takes place after the grapes are picked. The wines are then returned to Tinwood for maturation before once again returning to be bottled. They only produce sparkling wines and have three to their name; a Blanc de Blancs which is 100% Chardonnay; a Brut which matches the vineyard with 50% Chardonnay, 30% Pinot Noir and 20% Pinot Meunier; and a Rosé, which is 60% Pinot Noir, 20% Pinot Meunier and 20% Chardonnay.
After a brief look at the vines, and a trip up the viewing platform and a nosey at one of their three rather gorgeous lodges which are available to book, we returned to our table for our first tasting. We were then delivered of our cheese platter and Rebecca gave us a bit more information on the wines. This was followed by wine number two and then wine three, which followed another short talk on the wine making process. The talks were great – concise, interesting but not overly complicated or technical.
The wines were very impressive. All were outstanding quality and each one had its strengths. The Blanc de Blancs was the easiest to drink, with loads of lovely fruit and a hint of sweetness. A perfect aperitif. The Brut was much more the traditional ‘Champagne style’, with citrus and toasty notes, a good match with the food. The Rosé was happily quite dry, with a lovely pale colour and strawberry notes. Very quaffable.
Drinking these lovely wines in such a lovely location was a real treat. We could have stayed all afternoon, and indeed some of our fellow guests looked as if they might! It reminded me of one of my favourite ever quotes, from the late great racing driver, Roy Salvadori, who was a regular at nearby Goodwood. He said: “Give me Goodwood on a summer’s day and you can forget the rest”. Well, the same could quite easily be said about Tinwood. Please do go visit, you won’t be disappointed.
A wine tour and tasting at Tinwood Estate costs £18 per person, with the cheese platter for two available for an extra £14.
Tinwood Farm, Halnaker, Chichester, West Sussex PO18 0NE. Tel: 01243 537372