It’s hard to believe that one of the pre-eminent English vineyards located in the heart of Sussex was growing iceberg lettuces a couple of decades ago.
Where now stand row after row of immaculate vines delivering some of the most celebrated sparking wine, at the turn of the millennium the crop was far more humble.
Had it not been for the greed of the supermarkets the Tinwood Estate vineyard might never have been born.
But as squeezed margins sunk the green-leafed iceberg lettuce, farmer’s son Art Tukker saw a fresh opportunity in the rich chalk of the ground for squeezing grapes.
He extended his education from university in Kent to the vibrant vineyards of New Zealand and in 2007 the first planting at the foot of the South Downs National Park near Goodwood began.
Today, the repertoire features The Estate Brut, the Blanc de Blancs and an exquisite Rosé and alongside the bottles of sparking a whole wine growing experience has been established too.
Wine tasting tours, three innovative and high quality lodges for overnight stays, a state of the art tasting room ... and last week a remarkable union of wine and gourmet food as renowned local chef Adam Sparshatt staged his first pop up restaurant for Art’s family, friends, customers, and the public.
The moment did not merely marry food and drink.
Art’s fiancee Jody was also in attendance having rushed back from purchasing her wedding dress that day. The couple will marry on May 21.
Not surprisingly, the Tinwood’s own wines were accompanied by some pino gris, sauvignon blanc and pinot noir from a certain Marlborough estate called Huia - where Art learned so many secrets of Linwood’s future success.
Adam, The Personal Chef, is a man much in demand. He prides himself on sourcing the best local produce - like wild mushrooms from Hampshire and Sussex for his opener, a risotto. Selsey crab and South Downs venison followed - with a Tinwood pinot noir jus.
The champagne estates of France may not have been planting lettuces 20 years ago when Tinwood was enjoying its salad days. But they have met their match.