Some things are so good that they simply demand to be shared, and that’s certainly true of the Weyborne Estate, north of Midhurst in stunning West Sussex countryside.

The historic estate, which sits just below Black Down, the highest point of the South Downs and in the care of the National Trust, clings to the side of a south-facing slope that is ideal for growing sparkling wine grapes bursting with real purity.

But the Weyborne Estate is about more than grapes; about more, even, than the stunning 2018 Family Reserve currently available from the cellar door.  Weyborne is a truly special place, which is why owner Nick Clarke is keen to share it with as many people as possible.

With links to the poet Alfred, Lord Tennyson, and to Oliver Cromwell, who stayed in the imposing house at the heart of the estate, Weyborne offers spectacular views right across the South Downs, together with a number of stunning viewpoints, tucked away retreats and even a small lake that will soon offer wild swimming.

“While the wine is first class, the setting is unbeatable, which is why the vision for Weyborne is about encouraging people to share in its delights,” general manager and viticulturist Benjamin Abric explained during a walk around the estate on a glorious late summer’s afternoon.

“We want people to buy our wine, but we also want them to buy into what is going on here, which is why we offer two ways in which people can share in the Weyborne vision.”

The most accessible course for wine-lovers who enjoy stunning scenery and exclusive access to unbeatable settings is to join Weyborne’s Temple of the Winds scheme, named after a Bronze Age circular bank, now a South Downs viewpoint on a walk often enjoyed by Tennyson in the mid-19th century.

Becoming a Temple of the Winds member costs £995, but since that includes £990 worth of Weyborne’s ‘field blend’ Family Reserve (65% Chardonnay, 30% Pinot Noir and a touch of Pinot Meunier), the deal is impressively good.

The additional fiver allows members to access the estate, enjoy the view, use the terraces and hideaways for family parties or to entertain friends or simply take a peaceful stroll around the 50-acre site, some 20 acres of which is under vines.

That figure of 20 acres is likely to remain static, too, at least for the time being. “The aim is to continue to improve the quality of our wines rather than increase the quantity we produce,” said Ben. “We also want to keep developing new ways to enjoy the natural beauty of the site and encourage people to visit, so planting more vines is not part of the current thinking.”

If the Temple of the Winds scheme is for those who want to be “involved”, in Ben’s words, then Weyborne’s Patron scheme is for those who see themselves as “integral” to its future. At £9,950, becoming a Patron is more likely to appeal to corporate members than individuals – although both are equally welcome – but the scheme offers benefits to match.

Those benefits include Patrons having their own wine made, bottled and individually labelled from one whole row of grapes in what has been named “The Patron’s Block”, the original vineyard planted in 2007. That’s likely to produce around 60 bottles of a truly limited edition wine.

“As a Christmas gift, handing someone a bottle of quality English Sparkling wine with your own label on it takes some beating,” said Ben, “although you could, of course, keep it all to yourself!”

Along with exclusive access to the estate and areas such as the Bathing House and the Dovecote, Patrons will be invited to Weyborne House for lunch and other events with the owner and will also enjoy a helicopter trip to the estate from London for four people.

Nick is also a keen polo player with his own pitch locally, offering Patrons the possibility of a special day out watching the sport.

With only 50 rows of vines in the original (now the Patron’s) block, membership is limited to 50 people, but following a launch in mid-September, that number has already been significantly dented. 

“We were delighted with the response to this exclusive opportunity, and I am sure it won’t be long before the block is all spoken for, so anyone interested needs to make contact soon,” said Ben, part of a winemaking family that hails from the Southern Rhone. After completing a degree in viticulture and oenology he successfully managed vineyards and production across France and the USA before arriving at Weyborne.

A summer hamper and 36 bottle of the Family Reserve, which retails at £55 per bottle, is also included in the offer to Patrons.

It was the location and the stunning views that inspired Nick Clarke to buy Weyborne as somewhere to live, not as a business location, but the three acres already put to vines were clearly doing well and so he decided to plant more.

With a business background in mining, he was fascinated by the geology of the site and by its unique terroir. The river Wey rises at Black Down and natural springs abound, including one that feeds The Bathing House, where the water is clean and pure and where the plan is to make the lake available for wild swimming in the near future.

“The steep slope here at Weyborne, together with the altitude, gives an extra freshness to the wine and allows the grapes to retain their acidity, which is ideal for sparkling wines,” explained Ben.

“Our goal is to reflect the essence of Weyborne and the uniqueness of the terroir and the climate in our Family Reserve, which is a Chardonnay-led Cuvee.” 

Ben went on: “In 2018 we were dealt a near-perfect hand for growing world-class grapes, and after four years of maturation it was bottled in in 2022 with zero dosage, allowing us to showcase the terroir in style.”  The relatively high altitude of this unique site also means that frost is rarely a problem at Weyborne.

Weyborne currently uses two top class winemakers, although the longer-term plan is to bring more of the process in house to give Ben more control. “We feel one way in which we could deliver our goal of making even better wine rather than more wine would be to press our own grapes,” he said.

“This is a journey, though, and we are planning higher-tier wines and prestige Cuvees that our Patrons and Temple of the Winds members will be able to enjoy while taking in the wonderful views of the South Downs from the various viewpoints the site offers.”

As with the 2018 vintage, Weyborne’s aim is to make the most of the vineyard’s altitude and allow the terroir of this special place to come through fully. It’s a recurring theme of Ben’s and one that highlights the uniqueness of the location. “These aren’t your normal polite slopes – they are imposing slopes,” he pointed out while walking back up to a wooden viewing (and drinking) terrace at the end of our tour.

The new terrace is one of the many features that make Weyborne about more than the wine. The Bathing House and the Dovecote, both of which offer unique settings for private dining, family parties or corporate occasions, make membership an attractive option, while there are also plans to build a ‘cave’ into one part of the hillside. Other natural attractions include a duck pond and a number of secluded picnic spots.

“Weyborne is one of those places that you have to see to appreciate,” said Ben. “Nick Clarke saw it and fell in love with it, and he wants other people to share it. Becoming a Patron is the ultimate way of doing that.”

As a sign off from such a visually poetic spot, the last word must surely go to Alfred, Lord Tennyson, who wrote of this very site: “You came and looked and loved the view, long known and loved by me, Green Sussex fading into blue with one grey glimpse of sea.”