Bewl Water Vineyard, Sussex

The English wine production scene appears to be going from strength to strength, with one estimate from a leading consultant that there are over 1,000 individual vineyards in production. So far the buzz has all been about sparkling wine, with England famously enjoying similar growing conditions, and in some cases soils, as Champagne. But a couple of different recent studies have suggest that climate change will fairly rapidly make England just as suitable for production of still wines. As a rule of thumb, grapes for still wine require more ripening sunshine and heat than those to be used to make sparkling wines.

A new name for me is Bewl Water Vineyard, sited on a clay slope in the High Weald area of Sussex. Bewl Water is the largest body of fresh water in South East England, and the vineyard sits on a gentle southerly slope of Wadhurst clay creating a frost-free microclimate. It also enjoys a slightly higher than average iron content, with nearby Wadhurst having been at the centre of England’s iron industry in the Middle Ages.

The Bacchus vines here are among the oldest in the UK, having been planted in the 1970s, while Pinot Noir – all Burgundy clones – was planted in 2005. The family-owned farm is also a signatory to WineGB’s Sustainable Wines of Great Britain Scheme, seeing themselves as responsible for protecting local wildlife, habitats and biodiversity. Use of synthetic chemicals is minimised to prevent soil depletion, and they are working to lessen their reliance on machinery in the vineyard.

I recently received samples of four wines, two still and two sparkling, to try for myself. The tasting included the gold medal-winning Reserve Cuvée from 2018.

The Wines

(2023) Bewl Water Vineyards pick out flavours of citrus, elderflower and white peach in their description of this wine. That's accurate, and could also describe many Sauvignons Blanc, which is very apt as there's more than a hint of Marlborough about this Sussex wine. Specifically, lemon rind, elderflower and a touch of reduction kick things off before the palate develops that peachy and ripe, slightly exotic fruit character. It's a wine with a bit of richness, but a zipping zest in the finish.
(2023) A traditional method, 100% Pinot Noir English sparkling wine, aged on the lees for at least 12 months. There is a hint of pink/bronze to the colour, and a steady stream of small bubbles as it pours. Aromatically, pastry notes over raspberry and lemon suggest freshness but with a little creamier, even gently baked character. The palate is fresh and crisply driven by lemon and yellow apples, but the dosage adds a balancing sweetness and gives an overall richness and easy-drinking character.
(2023) Winner of a gold medal at the WineGB awards, this is a blend of the three main Champagne varieties, part barrel fermented, and aged 24 months on the lees. There's a vivid lemony directness here, smoothed by a little biscuit and some delicate floral notes. The mousse is creamy, and again the lemony thrust of the wine offers plenty of bite and crispness, but it fleshes out mid-palate before a vivid and long, citrus finish.

Bewl Water Vineyard
Cousley Wood
East Sussex

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