Pushing Wine Boundaries at Bolney
The sixth commercial vineyard in the country when founded in 1972, managing director of Bolney Wine Estate Sam Linter loves the diverse opportunities that English winemaking can offer
Article by Catherine Ferguson
As MD and Head Winemaker at Bolney Wine Estate, Sam Linter’s philosophy is simple, “Our mission is to produce delicious artisanally made quality wines.” With a host of accolades under their belt, including the UK Wine Award’s Winery of the Year 2017, Bolney have got it down to a tee at their West Sussex vineyard.
One of the UK’s longest established vineyards, Sam tells me that Bolney was only the sixth commercial vineyard in the country when it was founded in 1972. Sam took the reins from her parents in the mid-1990s. “There were not many women in the industry in the early days,” she says, “but I had a lot of positive reception and support from the industry. I hope I have been a good example for women wanting to work in wine.”
With the stunning summer of 2018 still very much on everyone’s lips, it’s been a bumper year for English winemaking. “We’ve harvested almost double what we had last year! It has been a phenomenal year for most vineyards in the UK. Certainly for Bolney we saw both in increase in quantity and quality. Expect some stand-out 2018 wines from us for 2019,” says Sam.
Sam believes that winemaking in England is a real team effort, from the ground roots up. She says that family values are incredibly important at Bolney. “It’s a family-run business and we treat our entire team like one big family. We care about nurturing and developing all of our staff and we hire people with great talent and promise and a huge amount of passion for this industry.”
She sees these values echoed throughout the English wine industry, “It has always been a collaborative effort. In the beginning, the handful of pioneering vineyards (including Bolney) shared their knowledge and lessons to help grow a positive reputation for English Wine. Once we started winning major awards, it was proved to the world that English Wine can stand up to competition from abroad and positive reviews from the press and support from wine writers has really helped spread the word to the British public.”
Sam loves the diverse opportunities that English winemaking can offer and extremely passionate about experimentation. “We’ve always pushed the boundaries at Bolney, I am never one to stand still. We championed both red and still wines early on, whilst most others were only focusing on sparkling. Bolney wines are not as traditional as some, but we make a diverse and award-winning range that has fruit focused character.”
Bolney’s Lychgate red, made from Rondo grapes, is undoubtedly a summer red. Dark berries, plums and herbaceous notes with high acidity left me craving a sunny Sunday afternoon with some barbecued meaty prawns. That said, it went pretty well with my paella in November too!
Its sister wine, the Lychgate White, was an equally summery affair. Super-fresh with tongue-tingling grapefruit, green apples and peaches, at £14.99 the blend of Reichensteiner, Schonburger and Wurzer grapes is a snip for an English white.
Sam thinks that there’s still more to be done to put English wine on the map in our own back garden. “I think it is key to highlight English wines on menus and give plenty of information about the vineyards and winemakers who created them! People are very focused on local produce at the moment, so English wines are a good option for those establishments wanting a local story to the produce they serve.”
With a new winery under construction at Bolney Wine Estate, life never stands still for Sam and her team. “We plan to up our production to 500,000 bottles in the next five years. We’ve got some exciting new wines for 2019, so watch this space!”
Enquiries: Bolney Wine Estate, Foxhole Lane, Haywards Heath, Weest Sussex, RH17 5NB / 01444 881575 /