We were very privileged to visit Breaky Bottom Vineyard on a wonderful warm May Bank Holiday Monday.
Nestled in a hidden valley in the middle of the South Downs in East Sussex, it is an idyllic spot. Far from the river yet surprising prone to flooding as Christine Hall explained, due to erosion on surrounding farmland, thankfully their flood barriers and flint walls now keep the farmhouse dry.
There are 6 acres of grapes which Peter Hall manages pretty much by himself, it is about the maximum size that one person can cope with. Peter has an incredible knowledgable of the wine industry having setup his vineyard in 1974. He explained he has experimented with several different varieties over the years to find the ones that work best on the land they have available. Many new and prospective vintners seek his advice on what to grow and how to setup and run their own vineyards including the new Rathfinney Estate in nearby Alfriston.
Seyval blanc grapes grow well here and form the basis of “Cuveé Sir Harry Kroto” which has won several international awards including Silver and Gold Medals in the International Wine Challenge. Sitting in the farmhouse kitchen we tasted the Sparkling Brut 2013 Vintage.
A north facing slope is home to the Chardonnay grapes which surprisingly ripen more quickly than the south facing vineyard. Sheltered from the winds and in their own micro-climate, the Chardonnay grapes are just budding out and, providing the weather is kind this year, will be picked around October.
“Cuvée Gerard Hoffnung” (a great family friend) from 2009 was our second tasting. 47% Chardonnay, 40% Seyval Blanc, 7% Pinot Noir and 7% Pinot Meunier.
“Cuvée Koizumi Yakumo” 2010 Seyval Blanc named after Peter’s great great uncle who is still well -respected in Japan and causes excitement amongst Japanese visitors. This was my favourite.
Christine showed us around the winery and wine store, located within beautiful old Sussex flint barns. Some of the vats are holding last year’s harvest which will be bottled later this year.
We came away with a mixed case of all three wines we sampled and a bottle of their Crème de Cassis made from their own blackcurrants. We will drink some of these ourselves and take some others to wine-loving relatives in France. Peter himself is one quarter French (and speaks fluent French) so in some ways the wines are coming home…