Wiston Estate: A vineyard retreat in Sussex with food to die for
With the South West having already claimed the title “English Riviera”, the South East is hoping to become the British equivalent of the Champagne region.
With more than 50 vineyards spread across the county, Sussex is the UK’s top wine producing region, home to top houses including Nyetimber and Ridgeview.
Located within easy travelling distance of London, it’s also the centre of the UK’s burgeoning wine tourism industry, with many producers now opening their vineyards, wineries and cellars to the wine-drinking public.
Wiston Estate, close to Worthing on the south coast, is one such producer. Relatively boutique in scale – it has 31 acres under vine and produces 50,000 bottles a year, a fraction of some of its bigger rivals, which are themselves a fraction of the big French maisons – Wiston consistently punches above its weight. Since its first vintage in 2008, two years after the first planting, it has been a permanent fixture in the prestigious WineGB Awards, picking up Winery of the Year in 2020, 2021 and 2022, and top sparkling wine in 2021 for its 2015 Blanc de Blancs.
The estate can be reached in under two hours from central London (Victoria to Worthing is 1.5 hours and the winery is a pleasant 20 minute cab ride from there), with visitors pulling up at the foot of the chardonnay vineyard, which was just beginning to bud when I visited in late April, before arriving outside the impressive Chalk Restaurant.
Housed in a converted threshing barn, Chalk opened in December 2021 and recently brought in Great British Menu contestant Tom Kemble (formerly head chef at Bonham’s) as executive chef. Here you can stock up on pastries and coffee before embarking on the various activities available, then return later for an excellent modern British meal drawn largely from the surrounding area.
Kemble is an excellent chef and his dishes all hit the mark; stand-outs included asparagus with smoked cod’s roe, beef tartare with confit egg yolk, braised local lamb with juniper-smoked potato, and butter poached pollock. These are all designed to be washed down by wine from the estate’s own cellar, naturally.
The chic dining room is designed by Kirsty Goring, part of the family behind Wiston Estate and its adjacent farmland (6,000 acres in total). Virtually everything is locally sourced or locally built, from the chalk sculptures that line the walls (created by Kirsty herself) to the huge lamp shades made by a local beer brewer and the zinc-topped tables crafted by local carpenters.
The tasting tour is, of course, a staple of any visit, taking you on a leisurely, educational amble through the winery, including the traditional coquard Champagne press – the only one in the UK – and the bottling plant before ending up in the sizable cellar for the highlight of the trip: the sampling.
This section of the tour can be tailored to suit your preferences or your wallet; I highly recommend trying the award-winning Blanc de Blancs 2015 and the complex, lively Blanc de Noir 2014.
Weather permitting – it rained when I was there but the British summer seems to have finally arrived – you can then wander around the vineyards, including an apiary where the restaurant sources its honey. It’s a beautiful landscape, the sinewy vines and rough chalk underfoot (part of the same seam that runs below the Channel and into the Champagne region) giving the impression you’ve stepped across the border into the rolling hills of France.
If you’re staying for a full day – or returning for more – there are landscape and nature tours that explore the wider estate, an off-road bike excursion, and a host of one-off events including a cocktail foraging afternoon and a jeep tour of the local woodlands.
The British wine industry is a remarkable success story and Wiston Estate adds a dash of top-level hospitality to the vineyard experience. Whether you’re a seasoned oenophile or an enthusiastic amateur, you’ll find something to savour in England’s answer to Champagne.
• The Wiston Estate Wine tasting Tour costs from £25 per person. For more information or to book go to wistonestate.com