Bolney Estates opens new visitor centre
English wine producer Bolney Wine Estates has opened its new visitor centre as it looks to more than treble the number of domestic visitors.
The opening marks the first phase in the vineyard’s 10-year growth plan, which will see it build a new winery and treble production to a total of 400k bottles by 2020, Bolney’s md and head winemaker Sam Linter told the drinks business.
The new visitor centre and café has been built as a mezzanine floor above the winery’s existing wine warehouse, which not only doubles the size of the restaurant area, but also provide extra space for tasting and a shop, alongside a 100 sq m outside balcony overlooking the vineyard.
The new facilities are partly modeled on the “great’ cellar door experience offered by countries such as South African and the New World, Linter said.
“We felt that on a tour of a vineyard, you should have a view of the vineyards, which they do so well in South African and the New World,” she added. “We wanted to have ability for the British public to visit a vineyard, drink a home-grown product and push that cellar door, vineyard experience. English wine is growing up, developing and being successful, so our cellar door‘ experience should reflect that.”
Wine tourism has become a significant part of Bolney’s business, contributing around 20% of sales, but Linter want to see visitor numbers increase from 13k last year, to around 45k by 2020, primarily targeting the domestic market, as well as some international tourism. It intends to boost its marketing in the second half of the year.
The move had been in discussion for around four years, had been contingent in finding the finance to invest in a large and expensive project.
“We had got to the stage where we needed a lot more space, we had maxxed out the space we had and couldn’t grow any more without moving,“ she said.“We now have the facility to house the retail and tours so now we can work on plans to extend the winery and bring investment in for the next phase.”
Around £100k – a third of the cost of the work – was provided by local enterprise partnership grant from Coast to Capital, while the remainder was raised from the business’s ongoing reinvestment in the business, and support from the bank.
Exports currently account for around 3-5% of Bolney’s sales, but Linter is keen to see this grow to 20% by 2020 on the back of increase production and widening distribution and listing in the five countries it already exports to, as well as targeting markets in Malaysia, Singapore, Shanghai and Scandinavia.
Bolney Wine was one of four English wine producers to enter the US market this week, after The British Bottle Company agreed a “milestone” distribution deal with US-based Vine Street Imports.