First English Pinotage Vineyard Planted


On June 21st, members of the Drinks, Travel and other press joined us for a ceremony to mark the planting of the first commercial Pinotage vineyard in the UK.

We are creating a new South African-style ‘wine destination’ experience at the 200 acre estate.

The new planting brings the total of vines under cultivation to 66,000 across 16 hectares at Leonardslee and a second site, three miles away at Mannings Heath Golf Club, where a vineyard was planted in 2017 to create the UK’s first golf and wine estate.

Total production is projected at some 75,000 bottles of sparkling wine annually: Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Meunier - and now a non-sparkling Pinotage. The first crop is due in 2020 and first release of wine in 2023.

We are creating a very special visitor experience.

People will be able to enjoy beautiful English parkland and woodlands, with wine tastings and pairings, good food and a full events programme.

Brits who have travelled to South African wine farms can experience the same friendly and relaxed wine culture just an hour by train from London, in exquisite countryside. Wine Tastings are already available to visitors to Mannings Heath Golf & Wine Estate - and you don’t have to be a club member.

Vineyard Estates


Leonardslee Lakes & Gardens and Mannings Heath Golf & Wine Estate are both part of The Benguela Collection, a wine producer and hospitality group that owner Penny Streeter started in 2013 with the purchase of the Benguela Cove Wine Estate, at the edge of South Africa’s southern coast.

The group now includes four restaurants and a hotel on the Garden Route. Planning a trip to South Africa? Why not visit us?

Johann Fourie was appointed in 2016 as Cellar Master for Benguela Cove in South Africa and for the UK vineyards, where he is working with viticulturist Duncan McNeill. Johann is now planning the wineries and managing wine making. He was the Diners Club Winemaker of the Year in 2015.

The sparkling wine cultivar plantings are 60% Chardonnay, 30% Pinot Noir and 10% Pinot Meunier. The experimental planting of 0.5 hectares for Pinotage, says Johann Fourie, is to evaluate this grape under the growing conditions found in Sussex:


“Pinotage is an early-ripening grape that accumulates sugar very fast which we believe should work well in UK conditions when well managed - and picked before cold and disease pressures set in due to hanging for too long. Being thick-skinned makes the grapes resistant to rot, which is a key factor.

“Unlike many Bordeaux grape varietals, Pinotage doesn’t have any unpleasant ‘green’ flavours when not picked fully ripe, in fact more winemakers are moving towards picking Pinotage earlier and making a more finessed Pinot-like style of red wine from the grape.

“Having said all of this, this is a test project so we’ll see what the vineyard conditions allow us to do. Fortunately Pinotage - of which Pinot Noir is one of the parents - makes a good base for sparkling wine as well; so if all else fails we'll end up with a unique English sparkling that’s got a South African twist to it. Actually we might just do that anyway!” - Johann Fourie


Emily Grey