Out of Africa

It’s been 18 years since the Goring family planted vines on the 600-acre Wiston Estate on the outskirts of Steyning, West Sussex. Yet the estate’s viticultural history dates all the way back to the 1st and 2nd century AD, when Romans planted vines on Chanctonbury Hill.

The story of Wiston’s latest incarnation of winemaking began over 8,000 miles away, however, in South Africa. It was here that Harry Goring fell in love with Pip, who had been raised among the winelands of the Western Cape.

The couple married in 1972 and Pip agreed to move to Sussex so he could manage Wiston’s farming businesses. It wasn’t long before Pip began longing for the winelands of her homeland and begged Harry to plant vines on the estate.

While grapes were being successfully grown elsewhere in England – Bolney Wine Estate planted its first vines in 1973, for example – Wiston’s farm management team had other ideas, including developing one of the UK’s largest turkey enterprises in the 1980s.

So it wasn’t until over three decades later, when agents for two French Champagne houses, Louis Roederer and Duval-Leroy, approached Wiston, offering to purchase the land for vines, that Pip got her way.

In 2006, the couple, along with their son Richard and his wife Kirsty, planted a south-facing 16-acre site on the estate with Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier and Chardonnay vines.

‘That was the moment Pip finally felt at home,’ explains brand director Kirsty ‘But it wasn’t just about planting vines, there was – and continues to be – a longing to engage other people in what we are lucky to be surrounded by here on the estate.’

Since then the estate’s team has grown to 80 and they now have 31 acres. In 2021, an old flint barn was converted into Chalk, a restaurant serving dishes that showcase produce grown on the estate.

Visitors can stay on in a restored pump house, and they’ve also won copious awards for their wines. But they vow to stay small - they make an average of 50,000 bottles of wine per year for their own brand and a further 50,000 under contract for other vineyards, compared with the likes of Nyetimber, who make over 1million. After all, Pip’s dream was never just about making wine; it was also about bringing people together.

3 English rosé wines for spring

Wiston Estate 50 Summers, £24/750ml bottle

This still rosé represents the realisation of Pip Goring’s dream for Wiston and was first released in 2022 to mark her and Harry’s Golden wedding anniversary. Made predominantly from Pinot Meunier (88%) with a touch of Pinot Noir (12%) and packed with juicy cherries and red summer berries with a slight peppery finish, it’s like summer in a glass. Sip it alongside a goats’ cheese salad. 

Roebuck Estates Rosé de Noirs, £42/750ml

This sparkling rosé is made from fruit grown in Petworth, Bignor and Lurgashall and is bursting with aromas of fresh strawberries and pink grapefruit with red berry and nutty flavours. Pair it with smoked salmon or a spicy fish curry. 

The Pig Lobster Shed Pink, £17/125ml glass

Made with Pinot Meunier and Pinot Noir grapes from Bee Tree Vineyard in Wivelsfield Green, by Dermot and Ana Sugrue of award-winning winemaker Sugrue South Downs, this sparkling rosé is packed with flavours of wild red fruit and buttery pastry thanks to being aged on its lees for four to five years. Goes well with (funnily enough) lobster, salmon and cured meats. Only available at The Pig Hotels. 


Drink wine, save starlings

If you visit Brighton’s derelict West Pier at dusk between early autumn and early spring, you’ll likely see the spectacular starling murmuration in the sky. The typical scene is depicted on the bottle label of Albourne Estate’s Bacchus Frizzante (£16.95) and the Hassocks vineyard has recently partnered with the RSPB to donate 20p from every bottle sold to help protect and preserve this threatened bird species for the future. 


Have a sniff

If you’re struggling to smell a wine, sniff the back of your hand first before sticking your nose in the glass – it will reset your olfactory system and enable you to detect more of the aromas.

Rebecca hosts The English Wine Diaries podcast. Her new wine column will appear in Sussex Life each month.