'We had lunch and wine tasting at an English vineyard - it’s an amazing girls' day out'

tinwood estate tour and wine tasting lunch review 2024
Lunch and sparkling wine tasting... in EnglandTinwood Estate / Emma Gritt

I have always a bit wary of English wine - and for good reason.

Growing up, we (randomly) had a vine growing along the edge of our garage, and one summer my nan’s cousin came and harvested the grapes to make some home brewed wine - and to say that the finished product made paint stripper seem palatable would be an understatement.

Nearly thirty years later, and thanks to pioneers who are not part of my extended family (and climate change), English sparkling wines are lauded not only by Brits but by the global market too, who’d ever have predicted that!

So when I was invited to have a tasting and lunch at Tinwood Estate, one of England’s most celebrated wineries, I leapt at the chance, taking my foodiest bestie (she’s a trained chef) with me.

Where is Tinwood Estate?

Located in the South Downs of West Sussex, Tinwood Estate is built upon the same chalky soil as found in the Champagne region of France. It's a bit of a natural suntrap, making it a fantastic spot for growing traditional Champagne fruits. Tinwood have four vineyards containing a total of 160,000 vines of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier grapes.

Owned by second generation farmer Art Tukker, whose parents used to grow iceberg lettuces on the land, Tinwood Estate is just 15-minutes drive away from Chichester, meaning it's perfect for a day out, or as part of a longer visit to West Sussex.

What was the vibe?

Until our trip to Tinwood, my knowledge about visiting vineyards stemmed solely from watching episodes of Real Housewives. Regular viewers of Bravo's finest trash reality show will tell you that a fiery showdown amongst the vines is a rite of passage for the cast of almost every franchise, from Cheshire to New Jersey to Cape Town. Thankfully, there was zero drama at Tinwood - the closest we got to any 'Real Housewives of West Sussex' was a big table of glamorous older ladies who were having a leisurely, boozy lunch to celebrate one of them getting married soon - goals.

The fifty or so people who had come for the Vineyard Tour and Wine Tastings were a mixture of couples, small groups of women, and a few solo attendees. It was really relaxed and not snobby at all.

Some people, like us, had just come for the experience, but it is possible to stay overnight by booking into one of the Estate's luxury lodges. These cute cabins let you wake up in the blissful calm of the West Sussex countryside, with nothing but the sound of birds, bees and the breeze - and to drink as much as you desire without fretting about how you'll get home. I think it would be perfect for celebrating a special anniversary or for a pre-wedding treat.

a house with a glass front
One of the lodges where you can stay overnightTinwood Estate

The 1.5 hour experience began with a tour of the vineyard, where we learnt about the agricultural side of winemaking, how the estate has planted wildflowers and have beehives to protect and promote natural diversity, and how the grapes are harvested in October to November. Fancy yourself as a prime picker? Members of the public can come to help out with the harvest and be paid in food and wine, talk about enjoying the fruits of your labour!

After a bit of time to look around, it was time for the really fun bit - eating and drinking.

What is the food like at Tinwood Estate?

Lunch is served during a tutored wine tasting, led by one of the Estate's experts. She talked us through three of their most popular sparkling wines, a Blanc de Blanc, Brut, and a Rose, sharing tasting notes, and explaining some facts and trivia about the wine making process.

You curate your own lunch by filling a small wooden crate with bits of what you fancy from the Tinwood Kitchen, paying for what you pick up. Everything there is made freshly on site, and it was delicious. We enjoyed whipped goats cheese, sundried tomato tapenade, fresh focaccia, truffle arancini (these are now in my top 3 things I have ever eaten, divine), some local Sussex cheeses, and my (carnivorous) friend also had ribs, parma ham and some teriyaki chicken, which she was thrilled with. For dessert, pick between freshly baked brownies, cheesecakes and a very flavoursome carrot cake.

I also loved how everything was served in glass and wooden serving dishes - zero wastage and not a piece of single use plastic packaging to be seen.

Final thoughts...

Our tour and tasting experience was brilliant, and I wouldn't hesitate to go again. My friend and I loved the ambience, the food, and of course, the sparkling wines. As the experience is just 90 minutes in total, it's something you can plan in as part of a longer day trip to the area, or just for a lunch date with a twist.

Go there!

Tinwood Vineyard Tour and Tasting, £21 pp, not including food.

Nearest station is Chichester, 1 hour from Brighton, or 1.5 hours from London. Tickets available via TrainLine BOOK NOW

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