14 MAR 2017: I went for the wine, but I stayed for the chat.  Hugo Corney, winemaker for Court Garden Vineyard warned us that he has the propensity for chatter, suggesting that if he was talking too much to raise our hand to signal him to wrap up. There was no chance of that happening, mainly because he was charming and his stories compelling, but practically because we had four glasses of his award winning wines in front of us.

The Corney family had acres of land in South Sussex, England, on which they bred sheep, but living away from the property meant frequent calls to check on the 650 animals.

“We explored to see if we had fields that were suitable for wine making. We (he and his parents) pursued recreational consumption.”

They learned that the greensands were good for chardonnay and chose rootstalks suitable for their soil. It takes three years for a vine to reach maturity and the initial sparkling wine was a success, but Corney said, “as a business model when all your family consumes your product it is time to make friends with your bank manager.”

“Our moment came when we started to enter competitions,” said Corney who clarified, “we needed more than to hear from polite people that our wine was lovely.”

Turns out the judges determined that their wine was indeed lovely. They have received 70 awards in total, including three international ones.

“We took our wine to our cousins across the channel (Dijon).  I was quite pleased, but they were delighted that we wanted to enter, thinking that wine from a different region was foreign to them.

“Our big claim to fame was when the NY Times posted an article with the sentiment that Sussex peasants were making wine a bit like champagne.”  Said Corney. Court Garden was written up in The Huffington Post and The Hanover Times, where the international readership brought attention to the region.

Having first enjoyed a tour of the facility and a glimpse at the painstaking process of producing a wine without the assistance of automation we were ready for a tasting.

I was not disappointed; the wine was smooth and lovely. And that’s not the comment of a polite person. It’s my own.

Corney said that volunteers who help them at harvest time get paid in product, so tourists to Great Britain can crush their wine and drink it too.

Court Garden Vineyard
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Pam Stellini

Pam Stellini is an original. Her quirky outlook and wry humour defy categorization. Readers have compared her to Erma Bombeck and Art Buchwald with a travel spin – and we're not about to argue. 

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