Drink, Drink And Be Merry

It was ‘all aboard’ as Kirsten Holt leapt on the Brighton Food Festival Wine Tour bus…

The day dawned bright and sunny and there was excitement in the air when we found a beautifully restored Routemaster glinting in the sun at the bottom of Grand Avenue. By 9.30 we were all on board and headed off to the first stop, about 45 minutes’ drive outside Brighton.

I’d thought this part might drag, but little did I know we were all to be given fresh croissants and local apple juice to send us on our way…. and before we knew it the bus began winding its way down a small country lane to reach the gates of the Bolney Estate. The first part of the tour had begun!

We were greeted by the Bolney team and after a quick pit stop, taken around the vineyards, learning about the different grapes, how the wines are prepared and stored and where they are bottled. And after about an hour we were ready to start sampling and my gosh, did we sample!

A sample was a full wine glass! We made our way through a very smooth, non-acidic Chardonnay vintage sparkler, quite a delicate, floral Rosé, and a fantastically Pinot Noir before we went on to have lunch. The finest buffet I’ve seen for a while paired with another two varieties of wine.

By this stage, we’d been given whole bottles of wine rather than just a glass so we could enjoy the full experience with the appropriate dish and looking round at the happy faces, I think it was fair to say this was more than anyone expected!

We then had the joy of tasting their red Cuvée Noir – an exceptional sparkling red that will be a treat at Christmas… and then of course we all found ourselves in the shop – I mean who couldn’t after their generosity?!

The bus was then loaded up to head to Ridgeview, in spite of a near panic by the tour facilitator who thought we’d left someone behind, where we were treated to another tour, learning the art of creating a decent bottle of bubbly before trying our way through an array of them, all named after London destinations.

These were accompanied by some delightful cheese from Le Cave à Fromage; a lovely goat’s cheese, a Sussex Camembert, a cheddaresque cheese and some blue cheese… again, beautifully chosen in terms of matching the crescendo of tastes.

We were a bit sad that in comparison to Bolney our portions seemed slightly sparing at Ridgeview; however, undeterred we still all found ourselves buying some bubbly, some of which was enjoyed on the return trip to Brighton!

All in all this was a great day. It was much better value than we envisioned when booking – definitely recommended.

Final wine tour this year is on 25 October 2014
£75 per person