A glass of bubbles is the perfect choice for a romantic evening. But Local Food Sussex member Bluebell Vinery Estates has found that a love affair with English wine can lead to wedding bells, as a recent article in Sussex lifestyle magazine Etc explains...
February is a busy month on the Bluebell Vineyard Estates, a family run vineyard and winery in Furner's Green, which produces the award-winning Hindleap sparkling wines. In the 70-acre vineyard, which stretches across east and west Sussex, the biggest job of the year is now taking place - pruning of the vines. And in the winery, under the guidance of winemaker Kevin Sutherland, the blends for each sparkling wine are being finalised.
But after February 14, Valentine’s Day, there will also be a flurry of phone calls to the estate office, as newly engaged couples want to cement their love of wine, and for each other, with a wedding at the vineyard.
Set on the edge of the Ashdown Forest, the Bluebell Vineyard is making a name for itself as a boutique wedding venue for foodies and wine lovers. It hosts just six to eight weddings a year during the spring and summer when the estate is at its prettiest. Happy couples can host their drinks reception beneath an oak tree overlooking the very vines that produced the sparkling wines in their glasses.
“Finding the right venue and securing the date is often the first thing couples want to do so we get a lot of phone calls after Valentine’s Day, as well as after Christmas,” says Collette O’Leary, wine development manager. “Our wedding couples have often visited us before and are big English wine fans and want to bring the vineyard into their wedding day.”
Not content with drinking the sparkling wines at the reception, wedding couples will use vine cuttings as part of the foliage and table decorations or to create chandelier centrepieces, or will name the guests tables after grape varieties. The Hindleap sparkling wines are not the only Sussex produce on the wedding breakfast menu as the vineyard works closely with local producers such as High Weald Dairy and Deerview Fine Sussex Foods among others.
Established on the site of a former pig farm, the first vine was planted in 2005. Since then, Bluebell Vineyard has more than doubled in size, and has the National Trust’s Sheffield Park and the Bluebell Railway among its neighbours.
It produces five styles of sparkling wine under the Hindleap name, all of which are vintage wines, which means they are each made exclusively from grapes grown in a single year. And since its first commercial release from the 2007 vintage, Bluebell Vineyard has won more than 70 national and international awards, including medals from Decanter and International Wine Challenge. It has high hopes for the new vintage for its Rosé sparkling wine - the 2014 Rosé made from Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier which will be available in spring 2018.
This month, just in time for Valentine’s Day, its current Hindleap Rosé will be combined into a heavenly truffle made by local chocolatier, Noble & Stace, based in Easebourne. No doubt, it will become the chocolate of choice for wine lovers hoping to tie the knot at the Bluebell Vineyard Estates later this year.
Food and sparkling wine love matches:
As well as the perfect aperitif and celebration toast, sparkling wines goes well with fish, spicy food and, of course, chocolate.
Mum’s the word….the latest trend in planning a wedding is to get your mum to recce the venue. “As young women are working full time, we have noticed they send their mums out to have a look round the vineyard so they can draw up a shortlist of wedding venues,” says Collette.
Visiting the Bluebell Vineyard Estates:
You can combine a tour of the vineyards with a stroll around the stunning estate and enjoy views of the vines, woodlands and reed-filled ponds. There are three self-guided trails open throughout the year, but make a note in your calendar to go in spring time when you can walk among carpets of bluebells. The trails are marked with wooden sign posts and there are picnic benches along the route. All the trails begin at the Tasting Rooms where maps are provided. Open Monday to Saturday 10am to www.bluebellvineyard.org
Tags: sparkling wine