Snuggled under cosy fur blankets on a wooden deck perched on the edge of a vineyard, we sip on sparkling Blancs de Blancs and dig into a breakfast hamper packed with croissants and fresh fruit. We’re not in the south of France, but at Tinwood Estate, an English vineyard in West Sussex, four miles from Chichester, and only an hour out of central London.
Back in 1985, Dutchman Tukker bought 200 acres of land here to grow iceburg lettuce. Ten years ago, Tukker’s son, Art, took on the land for his own project – growing vines for English wines. Art and his wife Jody have worked, manicured and nourished the land and now 100,000 champagne variety vines flourish in their 65 acres of chalky, flint-topped soil.
In June 2016, Art and Jody expanded their business by building three lodges in a little thicket on the periphery of the vineyard. Their wooden viewing decks and olive trees help the lodges blend into the surrounding oak, chestnut and birch trees, and vines. The overall feel is sleek and modern rather than rustic, however.
King-sized beds are made up with fine Egyptian cotton linen and the lodges are peppered with one-off pieces of furniture sourced by Jody. Sleek, open bathrooms have his-and-hers stone basins, and both gigantic walk-in showers and two-person Jacuzzi baths.
Each meticulously put-together lodge is named after one of the three grape varieties that the estate grows, and, like the variety in wines, each has its own personality. We stayed in ‘Chardonnay’, which has a huge oak mirror and bedside tables picked up in the New Forest on one of Jody and Art’s staycations. Pinot Noir has a deeper, darker palate, with plush velvet furnishings, while Pinot Meunier has a simpler, more modern European feel.
The wine theme carries through to every last detail, from statement headboards crafted from old wine barrels to glass frames filled with corks from the estate’s bottles and tiny finishing touches such as pillows advising you to ‘save water drink wine’.
One of the biggest draws of this secluded spot is just that; there is little around but well-tended vines tailing off into the horizon (you can see the Isle of Wight on a clear day). Mountain bikes are free to borrow if you want to explore the local countryside, and there are endless dog-friendly walking routes.
Many guests understandably stay put, though. Wrap yourself in a plush cotton robe and venture out to wallow in the barrel sauna that sits in a clearing beside the lodges. Waiting the 15 minutes it takes to warm up gives you the perfect excuse to try the estate’s sparkling and red wines; Blancs de Blancs sparkling Chardonnay is clean and refreshing (like biting into a juicy green apple, says Tinwood’s wine guru Becky), while the Brut is more like a classic Champagne, still fresh but with brioche notes. If you’re a fan of Provence-style rosé, go for the estate’s dry and creamy Brut Rosé, best paired with strawberries and cream.
There’s no restaurant on site but Tinwood has an agreement with The Kennels, the members clubhouse at neighbouring Goodwood Estate, allowing guests to have dinner there. This may look stately, with its baby grand piano, open fireplaces and dining room laid with starched linen cloths, but the atmosphere is surprisingly relaxed. Hungry golfers stroll in after a round and dogs are welcome to sit beside their owners while they enjoy dinner.
The Kennels’ reasonably short menu showcases seasonal ingredients in inventive dishes. A tiny amuse bouche of pressed chicken was lifted with avocado and tarragon, while deep-fried gnocchi was given added crunch with chargrilled kohlrabi pieces, cubes of apple and hazelnuts. Slow-cooked medallions of pork tenderloin had an impressive array of accompaniments – griddled bacon, pan-fried scallops, charred onions and a springy sage moss. And a crème brulee dessert was served with a piece of buttery shortbread on the top of its crisp sugar lid.
After a meal guests are welcome to while away the evening in the clubhouse’s bar-cum-drawing room. Don’t miss the dedicated gin trolley; sign up for a gin experience and you can taste three premium British gins (in our case Chilgrove Dry Gin, distilled from grapes, The Botanist and ultra-local Blackdown) before choosing your favourite to sip on in a perfect-serve gin and tonic. There’s no need to fight over who’s driving, as the team at The Kennels will drop you back to your cosy lodge in their bespoke Land Rover Defender, or the Jaguar if you’re really lucky.
Back at Tinwood, breakfast is a real treat. With a gentle knock at the door an unseen house elf drops off a hamper at your preferred hour. Boiled eggs come in little eggcups alongside jars of fruit salad, and kilner-style bottles of orange juice nestle in beside warm croissants, yogurts and cereals. Fire up the Nespresso machine or pop open a bottle of Tinwood’s sparkling, and carry your basket out onto the raised decking for breakfast overlooking the vines.