It began as a challenge to learn a new skill. As their three daughters – now aged 8, 11 and 13 – started to become more independent, Alison felt she needed an interest and so embarked on a four-year part-time degree course in vine-growing and wine production at nearby Plumpton College. This has enabled her to be as comfortable on a tractor taking in the latest harvest, as in analysing the alcohol content in the lab or marketing her range of white wines to local businesses.
At the time, she had no ambition of setting up her own vineyard, although during her stint working overseas ahe had enjoyed visiting New World producers in New Zealand and Australia. It was the course, together with the growing success and interest in English wine, that inspired her.
“The timing was perfect,” says Alison, who has already won several prestigious awards for her wines. “I was looking for a career which would fit around my family and I started vine growing when locally sourced food and drink was on the rise, with shoppers wanting to know more about the background of where their purchases came from and how they are made.”
Full article available on pages 22/23.
When Alison Nightingale and her husband Nick Cooper arrived in Hurstpierpoint 12 years ago, looking for a thriving village in which to bring up their young children, she could have scarcely imagined that she would end up helping to put Sussex wine on the map.
Alison – who runs Albourne Estate, just outside Hurstpierpoint – is one of a small number of entrepreneurs whose vintages are starting to overturn prejudices about English wine and win a reputation among connoisseurs.
However, when she moved to Hurstpierpoint after a three year stint in Singapore – leaving behind a career in marketing with Heinz and Nestlé – she had no intention of turning what was an interest into a successful business.
At first, Alison and Nick, who were living as a stopgap in London, just wanted somewhere away from the rat race, yet lively enough. “Nick was born in Steyning and knew the area well,” says Alison. “With trains from Hassocks it was easy enough for him to commute to London and we felt that Hurst was big enough to be a lively place to live but still a village with all of the benefits that this brings: a friendly community and somewhere I could easily push a pram.”
And so the family moved into Western Road in 2003. An exciting chapter was about to open in their lives which was to see them swap village life for a farm – a farm set to be transformed into one of Sussex’s few dedicated vineyards.