The Pinot Noir grape
This family-owned vineyard consists of 9.5 hectares on sunny south-facing slopes overlooking the South Downs in West Sussex.It's run by former barrister Wendy Outhwaite and her husband Charles - who, apparently, has gone one step further to ensure he never runs out. At school, he brewed beer in his waste paper bin. He was never caught due to his study mate’s enthusiasm for cooking sausages using the live wires from the electrical socket (not recommended). Their Ambriel wines tastes far better than Charles’s beer, thankfully. The vineyard was planted in 2008 and is on free-draining greensand: The underlying rock stores heat from the sun and reflects it to help ripen the grapes. Their vines are the classic varieties (Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier) and the clones are Burgundian, selected for quality rather than quantity - and they only use their own grapes which is rather unusual.
Indigenous to Burgundy, this fabulous grape variety is a tricky customer to grow: get it right and you’ll taste some of the world’s best red wine, get it wrong and you’ll taste some of the worst. It’s a cool climate grape, which may frequently fail to ripen. Transplant to a warmer climate and it will ripen too soon. It’s thin-skinned so needs to be handled with care. The bunch is a mass of grapes – a haven for any number of diseases let alone rot.
Pinot Noir is an important ingredient in Champagne and other quality sparking wines. It’s also finding top form in Oregon, USA and Central Otago, New Zealand; areas which are now rivalling Burgundy for the true home of Pinot Noir.