The Norbertine monks at Storrington don’t just serve the local Catholic community these days, they also tend 4,000 vines on a slope just across the road from their home, Our Lady of England Priory.
The county’s most unusual vineyard is possibly its smallest, too. Just a hectare of land was put under vine by Father Paul MacMahon in 2006, with the first major harvest of its pinot noir and chardonnay grapes taking place in 2009.
That harvest yielded around 4,000 kilos of fruit, enough to make 1,300 bottles of Storrington Priory sparkling wine, processed at the nearby Wiston Estate Winery. The newly disgorged wine – 60 per cent chardonnay, 40 per cent pinot noir – met with immediate approval at a special tasting in April 2011.
The 2009 vintage won’t be ready until 2015 and the 2010 harvest, where the quantity of fruit picked rose to 5,000 kilos, will come later. Still, any passing wine enthusiast will enjoy a diversion to see this vineyard – a true labour of love – and enjoy the tranquillity of the neighbouring woodland field, Matt’s Wood, with its shrine to Our Lady.
The vineyard can be toured with Father Paul MacMahon on request. The church – once the place of worship for the writer Hilaire Belloc and the poet Francis Thompson – and its grounds are open from 7am until 6.30pm.