But while I wholeheartedly admit to being an enthusiastic consumer, I couldn’t profess to knowing a whole lot about the process of making it.
That was until last week, when I was invited on a tour and tasting at the winery on the Wiston Estate, followed by a three-course lunch in the gorgeous on-site restaurant Chalk.
Located just north of Findon and a little south of Washington on the A24, the Wiston Estate has been stewarded by the Goring family since 1743.
They planted their first vineyard in 2006, thanks to the dogged persistence of Pip Goring, who married into the family and moved here from her native South Africa in 1972.
She convinced husband Harry that the rich chalk slopes of the South Downs would be perfect for growing wine, and would be a great way of bringing the local community together.
Pip’s dream proved to be a good one, as 18 years later the vineyard – now run by son Richard and his wife Kirsty – is a real local success story.
It produces highly acclaimed English sparkling wines (and a few varieties of still wine, too) and has regularly won the title of Winery of the Year.
And not only did I learn a lot about the history of the estate on my 90-minute tour and tasting, I also learned a huge amount about the careful and dedicated process of making such delicious wines.
Making wine is not for the impatient. As I found out it takes time and great skill to get it just right, but luckily the team of winemakers and staff are incredibly good at hitting the right balance.
There is no given in the art of winemaking. Weather and climate-change mean each year the grapes will grow differently, but the team is adept at adapting and changing to get the best harvest and make the best wines from it.
Our highly knowledgeable tour and tastings guide Candace Bugden said: “This industry is young, and we are responding to new things all the time.
“But what we deliver in the bottle is always an expression of the land.”
Depending on the harvest, the winery produces about 50,000 to 100,000 bottles per year. At the end of your tour, you get to sample a few of them and you can then buy any you liked in the North Farm Shop on site.
For anyone concerned that wine tasting is not something they know how to do, don’t be. You’ll be talked through the process by Candace or one of the other guides in a way that makes it accessible to everyone.
Her passion for the products, for Wiston and for the art of winemaking was infectious and made it a really memorable experience.
I didn’t think I’d really be any good at telling the difference between bottles, but it’s surprising how different a citrusy wine, followed by something more biscuity can be.
My absolute favourite was the Estate Cuvee 2016, which has notes of toasted almonds, apricot and brioche and a long finish in the mouth (check my out with all my newly acquired wine terminology), but pick any Wiston wine and you won’t be disappointed. They truly all were delicious.
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Just across from the shop is Chalk, where my brother and I had a stunning three-course lunch with a glass of Estate Blanc de Noir 2014.
The Chalk menu is bursting with fresh local produce, including ingredients from the Estate and its neighbours.
Our beetroot and smoked salmon starters were delicious, and the beef brisket and pumpkin Bolognese rigatoni mains were heavenly.
The vibrant and super fresh ingredients just sing from the plate.
For dessert, the lemon posset and forced rhubarb offerings we chose rounded off the experience perfectly.
And if the food isn’t enough, Chalk itself is beautiful, providing a stylish yet relaxed space to enjoy a special meal.
I was also given a bottle of one of Wiston’s Chardonnay Bacchus ‘Tank Five’ to try at home. Usually I’d shy away from a Chardonnay, believing it’s ‘too much’ and ‘too oaky’ for me. But this is a revelation. Just goes to show that wines can constantly surprise you – and that the team at Wiston sure do know how to press a mean grape!
The whole day was wonderful, and something I’d really recommend. I really hope to go back and do it again one day.
Tours and tastings cost £25 and run twice a day, from Wednesday to Sunday. To book, email [email protected]
Chalk is open for lunch from Thursday to Sunday, and evening meals on Fridays and Saturdays. You can book online at www.wistonestate.com/chalk-restaurant/ or by calling 01903 877845.