Not far north of the beaches of Brighton spread the 10 hectares of Alison and Nick Nightingale's Albourne Estate vineyards. A relatively new venture that produced its first vintage in 2013 from vines planted in 2010. The creation of the vineyard, and its debut vintage, were something of a dream realised for the couple who had toured the vineyards of Australia and New Zealand while pursuing careers in Singapore some years ago. On their return to Sussex in 2002 Alison took a Viticulture and Oenology course at Plumpton College and the seeds were sown.
After a widespread search they finally found an arable farm up on the south-facing sandstone ridges near their Sussex home and having moved there in 2009 they planted 40,000 vines and began converting the old farm buildings in to a wine cellar and storage facility. They make sparkling wines in the Champagne style from the classic holy trinity of chardonnay, pinot noir and pinot meunier and table wines from pinot gris, pinot blanc, pinot noir (a white still wine), bacchus and ortega.
They farm sustainably, using 100% green energy generated by more than 140 solar panels at the winery, and everything is hand-harvested before whole bunches reach the presses and the juice reaches the computerised temperature controlled fermentation tanks. Cultivated yeasts specially chosen for the characteristics of the fruit set the fermentation on its way. Still wines are bottled at a local winery and the sparkling wines are bottled by a mobile bottling plant that crosses the Channel from Champagne every year.
Sharing the estate is a brewery run as a co-operative by Nick which has been a success in its own right and now supplies thirty pubs including its own brewery tap in Ditchling.
For Alison and Nick this was a gamble but they did their homework, worked extremely hard and now the gamble is paying off.