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Review of Roebuck Estate

Roebuck Estate in West Sussex

On a beautifully sunny and warm Saturday at the start of May, my sister and I neatly folded my wine loving parents into the back of the car and headed westward from Hove to Roebuck Estate’s main vineyard near Petworth, writes Nick Mosley.

Now I’ve obviously enjoyed Roebuck’s English sparkling wines over the years but I’d never actually made it out to see their vines as – like most other vineyards in Sussex – getting there without your own wheels is nigh-on impossible. Unfortunately so much of our wonderful county is cut-off due to appalling public transport links although I can veritably say that within the next few years the county will equally unreachable to drivers because the pot-holes on some of those country lanes are larger than village ponds… another bone-shaking story for another day.

Roebuck has a number of vineyards but their home is on the outskirts of the picture-perfect village of Tillington just beyond Petworth. The location is absolutely stunning – indeed I’d argue that its quite possibly the most beautiful Sussex vineyard that I’ve ever visited with rolling south-facing slopes and vines pretty much as far as the eye can see accompanied by a truly theatrical 180-degree vista of the South Downs in the distance, dappled with ever-changing sunlight bursting through the clouds. It really is a uniquely special place.

We settled down in their open-sided tasting marquee with marketing manager Dani and events manager Pip for a comprehensive and thoroughly engaging introduction to the company and the award-winning English sparkling wines they’ve been producing for the last decade. The name obviously comes from the pocket-sized native roebuck deer that roam Sussex, that thankfully don’t do too much munching of the vines unlike some of the invasive deer species that cause somewhat more havoc to farmers.

Roebuck Estates pride themselves on their stewardship of the land they farm. Across their vineyard fields are areas dedicated to wildflowers plus log piles where insects and amphibians can set up home. Nurturing biodiversity is at the very heart of the vineyard’s ethos so both mowing and artificial inputs are also kept to an absolute minimum.

But – as important as all the above is – what about the wines? Like the majority of Sussex’s vineyards, Roebuck has a focus on the three main grapes that traditionally make the best sparkling wines: Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier. Our French neighbours are also big fans of the same for their little-known Champagne wines… I jest.

We sampled their Classic Cuvée 2018 – made from the first pressing of a blend of the best of the three grapes – that is a fine example of Sussex sparkling; think notes of stone fruit with a classic biscuity finish. My mother was a fan of the Rosé de Noirs – I know this as she managed to wangle a second glass.

Roebuck Estate in West Sussex

I’m a huge fan of English, and French for that matter, Blanc de Noir – a white sparkling made from gently pressed red grapes so only the slightest hint of the skin colour resides in the final wine. The Pinot Noir grapes in Roebuck’s 2015 vintage are actually from another parcel of land – their Roman Villa vineyard on the other side of Petworth – and is an exemplary expression of confident winemaking in a distinctly English style.

Whilst in some ways similar to the Classic Cuvée blend, there is more richness and nuttiness; this is an accomplished, rounded Sussex sparkling wine that no doubt has benefitted from being left on the lees – in bottle with the yeast sediment – until it reached perfection in its own time. Its rich and robust and to my humble palate both perfectly quaffable yet also easily matchable to dishes such as game birds, or dare I say, deer. It’s a wine that genuinely demands attention.

You can visit Roebuck vineyard at Tillington for a tour and tasting every Saturday morning and afternoon throughout the summer. They’re also hosting a number of one-off ‘Feast in the Vines’ collaborations with local chefs; a delicious way to enjoy Sussex wines with perfectly matched dishes. For a more chilled experience then head to their open-door ‘Sunset Sipping’ event on Friday evenings where you can order up craft wood-fired pizza from local bakery Farretti and enjoy a glass or two of Sussex’s finest.

Having been to more Sussex vineyards than you could shake a stick – or vine – at over the years, prior to my visit to Roebuck I wasn’t expecting to be able to write a full page review but the passion, product and provenance shone as brightly as the Sussex sunshine that afternoon. I was going to roll my visit to Roebuck into a lunch review at The Horse Guards Inn in Tillington but you’ll have to wait another week or so for that one. Safe to say, a visit to Roebuck rolled into lunch or supper – and perhaps an overnight stay – would make a mighty fine Sussex wine and food experience.

Nick Mosley

Roebuck Estates, Tillington, Petworth, West Sussex GU28 0RD

01798 263 123 •


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