WINE & TRAVEL: Sussex Wine & Spa Break
Looking for a winter or spring trip to the English countryside? A special get-together with friends? Or a romantic weekend?! I recently enjoyed a charming break to Sussex to explore Bolney Wine Estate followed by a blissful overnight stay at the nearby Ockenden Manor Hotel and Spa. Here's how to wine, dine and reset in 24 hours in Sussex.
How to get there
Bolney is close to Haywards Heath which is easily accessible from central London. Direct trains run to Haywards Heath Station from London Victoria (45 minutes) and London Bridge (50 minutes). At Haywards Heath Station there's a taxi rank and Bolney is 15 minutes' drive away (no need to pre-book). By car, Bolney is approximately 90 minutes' drive south from central London and 30 minutes' drive north from Brighton.
Bolney Wine Estate
Bolney is a family business which began in 1972 when the founders Janet and Rodney Pratt planted a couple of acres of vines in this lovely area of Sussex. Today Bolney is headed up by Sam Linter, the daughter of Janet and Rodney. Sam has taken the estate from strength to strength winning multiple awards, including Winery of the Year in 2017.
Bolney produce a range of sparkling, red, white and rosé wines and have even launched their own gin and Rosso Vermouth! I was lucky to taste most their range and here are my three absolute must-tries:
1. Bolney Blanc de Blancs 2016, £30.99
This sparkling wine is made from 100% chardonnay. It has aromas and flavours of honeysuckle, grapefruit, yellow pear and apple pie. It's a very pretty sparkling wine and I loved how it evolved and gained complexity in the glass throughout my lunch. Enjoy as an aperitif or with salads, fish and chicken dishes. BUY NOW
2. Bolney Pinot Noir 2018, £19.99
English Pinot Noir? Yes - we are making it! 2018 was a pretty perfect vintage in the UK so there are some great red wines coming from this year. The Bolney Pinot Noir is light, with soft tannins and crunchy red fruit - think maraschino cherries, red currants and strawberry with subtly violet, dried rosemary and slate. BUY NOW
3. Bolney Vermouth Rosso, £19.00
Vermouth is a fortified wine flavoured with different botanicals. I had this Vermouth Rosso with elderflower tonic, orange and thyme. It's a little sweet, a little bitter but really refreshing and delicious. I keep seeing more and more Vermouth on the drinks scene and I just love it! BUY NOW
I enjoyed a lovely light lunch at Bolney's The Eighteen Acre restaurant. The restaurant is really relaxed with beautiful views of the vineyards. I shared prawn tempura with my husband and I then had a deluxe style chicken Caesar salad and my husband had the smoked fish cake with a poached egg - all highly recommended. The menu at The Eighteen Acre restaurant includes English classics like rare roast beef and horseradish sandwiches, smoked salmon and cucumber sandwiches as well as indulgent homely dishes like the Bolney burger and truffled mac and cheese. All of Bolney’s wines are available by the glass at the restaurant, so you can curate your own wine tasting! Dishes from £6.50 and wines by the glass start at £5.50. The restaurant is open from Monday to Sunday 9am to 5pm and the wine bar is open on Fridays from 5pm to 10.30pm. To find out more about the restaurant, click here
Bolney offer a number of tours starting at £10 per adult, from a casual 'Drop-On Tour' to a 'Grand Gourmet' package.
I joined a 'Taster Tour' which gave me the opportunity to walk through Bolney's vineyards and tour the winery followed by a tasting of five Bolney wines with cheese pairings. I do love a tasting with a cheese element! I think the Taster Tour is a great option for anyone - from wine beginners to wine pros. The Taster Tour is £20 per adult. To find out more about tours, click here
Ockenden Manor Hotel and Spa
After a lovely afternoon at Bolney, I took a five-minute taxi to the nearby Ockenden Manor Hotel and Spa. The hotel is a traditional Elizabethan manor house set within nice acres of picturesque countryside. It has a modern award-wining spa and a fine dining restaurant.
After checking in I headed straight to the spa. The spa is architecturally very impressive and has a beautiful indoor swimming pool with a swim-through door to a heated outdoor pool. There's something extremely satisfying about swimming in a lovely warm outdoor pool when it's only 8°C outside! There's a bar at the spa so you can enjoy a glass of English sparkling wine in this serene setting and an extensive list of treatments is also available. I treated myself to a 'Five Element Acupressure Scalp Massage' which was divine.
Drinks and Dinner
Before dinner we warmed up in the traditional drawing room in the manor hour for an aperitif and canapés. The evening kicked off with (naturally) a glass of English sparkling wine. Dinner then followed in the main restaurant, a relaxed affair with great service and excellent food. The restaurant manager and sommelier Tibor was fantastic and guided me through his wine list picking some epic gems to try! Menu highlights included:
Jerusalem artichoke soup with Serrano ham, Sussex cheddar and truffle toastie
Huntsham farm Middle White pork - fillet, belly, croquette, caramelised apple sauce, butternut squash, cauliflower cheese purée
Warm vanilla rice pudding with kumquats, candied mandarin and orange sorbet
The Next Morning
After a lovely night's sleep, I enjoyed a charming breakfast back at the main restaurant. The tables were set up with the prettiest pastel-coloured china and the morning sun shone over the delightful garden views. After indulging in a particularly hearty full English breakfast it was time to head back to London feeling very happily wined, dined and relaxed.
To find out about staying at Ockenden Manor, click here
Thank you to Bolney Wine Estate and Ockenden Manor Hotel and Spa for this gifted trip!