Foyle's War and Downton Abbey are just two of the many film and TV productions that have made use of scenic opportunities provided by the Bluebell Railway. With steam trains chugging along the route from Sheffield Park to East Grinstead it evokes a bygone era, yet close by a very modern enterprise is taking shape. The Bluebell Vineyard Estate may owe its name to a heritage site, but it is very much a modern enterprise helping to create and shape the quality English Sparkling Wine industry.
Back in 1982 when Barry and Joyce Tay bought the Glenmore Farm, it was used for pig rearing. Neighbours didn't always appreciate the smell and, with falling prices and swine fever to contend with, pig farming hasn't always been an attractive and profitable proposition, especially in the late 1990s. So in 2004 the decision was taken to plant a vineyard, and the following year 4 ha of vines were planted with the assistance of viticulturalist/winemaker Kevin Sutherland.
Originally from New Zealand, Sutherland has been living in the UK since 1988 and prior to joining Bluebell Vineyards had a spell teaching at Plumpton College. Early vineyard development was not without its challenges. The first site had a far from optimal NW-facing aspect, and the years of pig farming had left the soil overly rich in Nitrogen. This caused an undue amount of vegetative growth in the early years, but this has since settled down. The opportunity has been taken to purchase additional land nearby, so that the Bluebell Vineyard now totals 23 ha and is due to be in full production in 2015. Most of the vines are Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Munier, but there is a small plot growing Seyval Blanc.
The winery was established in 2007, in time to produce the first sparkling wine which totalled 1,300 bottles. Bluebell's own production should grow to ca. 60,000 bottles per annum once all the current plantings are on stream. Winery facilities are such that they are able to offer contract winemaking.
Bluebell wines have performed well in competition with Brut Rosé and Blanc de Blancs both receiving Silver medals at the Decanter World Wine Awards in 2013 and at the International Wine Challenge in 2012. The Brut Rosé was also judged to be the leading English Sparkling Rosé at the Judgement of Parsons Green in both 2013 and 2014.
Tours and tastings at Bluebell Vineyards are available by prior appointment only.
(Images © Biddenden Vineyard)
Tel: 01825 791 561
Winemaker: Kevin Sutherland
Hindleap Classic Cuvée
Hindleap Sparkling Seyval Blanc
Hindleap Blanc de Blancs
Hindleap Brut Rosé
Bluebell, Hindleap, Classic Cuvée 2010
Pale lemon; orchard, biscuit nose; dry, crisp acidity, apple, lime, creamy; med length. (7 May 2014) Highly Recommended, 86/100
Bluebell. Hindleap, Seyval Blanc, 2011
Straw; apple, citrus, biscuit; fruit palate lacking concentration; med legth with herbal finish (7 May 2014) Recommended, 82/100
Bluebell, Hindleap, Blanc de Blancs, 2010
Straw; apple, citrus, hints biscuit; dry, fresh acidity, complex creamy palate of apples, pears, stone fruits; long length, refined (7 May 2014) Outstanding, 92/100