Having moved to the rural English village of Bolney at the tender age of six, Sam Linter’s family were one of the original pioneers for the English wine movement. Around only the fifth or sixth Vineyard to be launched in the UK, the Bolney Wine Estate was a dream fulfilled for Sam’s father, who at the time had only his knowledge from his European travels and access to limited resources from this country.
Sam’s father travelled to Germany after his Chemical Engineering degree and learnt as much about the Wine Industry as was possible. Upon returning to the UK and starting his family in Surrey, the move to Bolney was a bold and brave one, given the unproven reputation of UK wines.
Taking over the reins in the mid-1990’s, Sam, now Chief Winemaker, has a wealth of experience and knowledge of her industry. Bolney has accumulated numerous prestigious awards and is now home to a cafe, shop and hosts many events. We caught up with Sam in our ‘Ten Minute’ series to find out some more history of the brand and catch up with what the team are up to at this time of year.
What has changed most in the industry since the Bolney Estate was launched?
The biggest change in the industry is without a doubt the access to knowledge and resources that is now available to UK winemakers and producers. In the pioneering years of English Winemaking, there were very few people making wine in the UK so a lot of mistakes had to be made and learnt from.
In the last fifteen to twenty years we have seen emerging British Vineyards succeed in all aspects of winemaking and be recognised across the world as a country that produces some amazing wines.
Bolney has won some really incredible awards, would you say you have reached ultimate success yet?
I don’t think there is such a thing at Ultimate Success when you run a vineyard, things are constantly changing. You always need to be working on new techniques, products, add-ons, experiences and everything in between. But that’s why it’s an equally very exciting industry to be in. We’ve been in business for 48 years but are constantly seeing new grape varieties and the climate is every changing which poses it’s own new yearly challenges.
We feel very humbled to have won as many awards as we have done but we are very conscious that if we don’t continue to improve all the time we will not keep up with benchmarks that get higher and higher every year.
Can you talk to us about the Eighteen Acre Restaurant & shop?
The shop originated as a way for people to buy our wines on-site and try them out before they buy! Now anyone can pop in and do a ‘Mini Wine Tasting’ before buying with any of our staff who are all trained to be able to talk you through our wine offering. We are also expanding the shop to ensure that we can offer as more local produce and food and drink gifting options to our customers.
The Eighteen Acre Restaurant allows us to host our own events, and is (usually) open everyday. Our headchef is very passionate about using local suppliers and seasonal produce. You can come in for a gorgeous breakfast, a light lunch or join us for one of our many events ran throughout the year. In the Summer, our terrace is a particularly beautiful spot to come and enjoy some nibbles and a glass of one of our wines whilst overlooking the vines.
What will you be doing during lockdown to keep the business running and is there anything in particular you have to focus on during this time?
At this time of year the vineyard is about to have ‘budburst’ and come out of its dormancy phase. Our skeleton team can still work at distance luckily as most of the work is outside. We have to continue with wine production from last years harvest as well so there is a lot of work to be done around here.
We are lucky to have experienced an increase in wine sales, and we have adapted to be able to now offer delivery or collection boxes to our customers if they do not want to visit the shop. We are also working very heavily with waitrose at the moment, which is great.
It’s been a good period to reflect and adapt and we are hoping to soon launch some ‘Virtual Wine Tours’ where people can still enjoy the beautiful vineyard whilst we are in this difficult time.
Where do you see Bolney Wine Estate in 5 years?
I would like to be working more closely with the customers and their needs. We want to be completely accessible to everybody whether you can visit us or not and of course we would like to provide an even better service than we are now in whatever form that takes. We will see the addition of our Farm Shop, which we now have planning permission for, and we would like to hold more foodie events to accompany the wine offering here.
What is your personal career highlight to date?
For me, winning our firsty trophy in the ‘International Wine and Spirits Competition’ in 2012 for the best British Vineyard.
Quick fire round.
Favourite wine produced by Bolney? Pinot Noir Red
Favourite wine produced (not at Bolney?) I love ‘Pouilly Fuisse’ a French Chardonnay from Burgundy.
Favourite place to eat at in Sussex? Anywhere that offers a great experience and freshly made food.
Your favourite spot on the vineyard. The top of the Eighteen Acre field underneath the oak tree, it has the most incredible view across two of our vineyards and the downs in the backdrop.