First Pinotage vineyard in the UK

22 June, 2018

The owner of a large estate in southern England has planted what is believed to be the first commercial Pinotage vineyard in the UK.

Penny Streeter (pictured - in South Africa!), the Cape Town-based British entrepreneur, owns Leonardslee Lakes & Gardens at Horsham in Sussex. She is creating what is described as a new South African-style wine farm experience at the 200 acre estate.

The new planting brings the total of vines under cultivation to 66,000 across 16 hectares at Leonardslee and a second site, three miles away at Mannings Heath, where a vineyard was planted in 2017 to create the UK’s first golf and wine estate.

Total production is projected at some 100 tonnes, 75,000 bottles of sparkling wine annually: Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Meunier - and now a non-sparkling Pinotage. The first crop is due in 2020 and first release of wine in 2023.

The site features the Grade 1 listed ‘finest woodland gardens in England’, first planted in 1801. hey open to the public in January 2019 following extensive renovation work since July 2017 when acquired by the current owner.

Penny Streeter said: “We are creating a very special visitor experience. People can enjoy beautiful English parkland and woodlands, now with wine tastings and pairings, good food and an entertaining events programme. Brits who have travelled to South African wine farms can enjoy the same friendly and relaxed wine culture just an hour by train from London, in exquisite countryside - and maybe a round of golf.”

The sparkling wine cultivar plantings are: 60% Chardonnay, 30% Pinot Noir and 10% Pinot Meunier. The experimental planting of 0.5 hectares for Pinotage, says Johann Fourie, is to evaluate this grape under the growing conditions found in Sussex.

“Pinotage is an early-ripening grape that accumulates sugar very fast which we believe should work well in UK conditions when well managed - and picked before cold and disease pressures set in due to hanging for too long. Being thick-skinned makes the grapes resistant to rot, which is a key factor.

“Unlike many Bordeaux grape varietals, Pinotage doesn’t have any unpleasant ‘green’ flavours when not picked fully ripe, in fact more winemakers are moving towards picking Pinotage earlier and making a more finessed Pinot-like style of red wine from the grape.

“Having said all of this, this is a test project so we’ll see what the vineyard conditions allow us to do. Fortunately Pinotage - of which Pinot Noir is one of the parents - makes a good base for sparkling wine as well; so if all else fails we'll end up with a unique English sparkling that’s got a South African twist to it. Actually we might just do that anyway!”

Leonardslee Lakes & Gardens and Mannings Heath Golf & Wine Estate are divisions of The Benguela Collection, a wine producer and hospitality group that Penny Streeter OBE, started in 2013 with the acquisition of the Benguela Cove Wine Estate, at the edge of South Africa’s southern coast. The group now includes four restaurants and a hotel on the Garden Route.

Keywords: pinotage

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