Friday, November 29, 2019

MENU's UK Adventure 17. A South African owned vineyard in Sussex. The Jordans at Mousehall

When Gary and Kathy Jordan, owners of Jordan wine estate in Stellenbosch, heard that we would be in England in September, they invited us to visit them on their farm, Mousehall in East Sussex. They told us that it is a very pretty and historic area and if we wanted to stop and see a classic country town, we should stop in Mayfield, which is just a few miles from them. We happened to arrive there at lunch time and it was indeed worth exploring
Elizabethan half timbered buildings line the High street, including this 14th Century Middlehouse Inn,
which Gary recommended as their "local"
We went in and ordered a simple lunch and some local beer
We were happy to see that they stock a South African Chenin Blanc and a Shiraz, both of which you can order by the glass
After the north was so chilly and damp, it was really lovely to sit out in the garden in the sun
Yes, that is fake grass; so much easier for the children to play on and for animals, we were told
You enter through the side of the inn, down the old coachway
Then it was off through beautiful wooded country
to arrive at Mousehall, down its small country lane. This beautiful old house is very historic, going back almost to the Norman conquest in the 11th Century. Gary told us that they had to search huge areas to find land suitable for vineyards and, eventually, he sent up a drone, the area has so much woodland. This was how they found Mousehall
Gary was busy mowing the high grass, which grows so quickly in summer, and Kathy was indoors working on the house. They currently live there with their daughter Christy and are doing all the house restoration and vineyard, garden and field work without any help. It is a listed property, so the rules and regulations are many and complicated, but they have at last been granted all the permissions they need
Our bedroom was timber framed and very spacious with its own en suite. When you visit a house as old as this, you imagine that it is going to have low ceilings and be very cramped, but it is not and has been very well kept and restored. There are some lovely ancient marks on the oak wood, and some pieces may well have been ship's timbers before they were used in the house, as is often the case
Some nice, slightly more modern, touches in the house, reminders of a time when people still had servants
There are mullioned windows, high chimneys and pantiled roofs
and several useful outbuildings
Their daughter Christy had a huge and very taxing job, planting 500 saffron crocus bulbs
We hear that it was a success; they have all flowered and have given their first crop of Saffron, all picked by hand
They plan to build a distillery and the saffron may be a component there
A farmer's hands. Gary took us for a walk to their Chardonnay vineyard, which was planted this year
They have a five vine trellis and the healthy new vines are already shooting up towards the top wires
The vines have to be planted in plastic sleeves to prevent predators like rabbits nibbling them
And they do have a rabbit warren on their front lawn
They even have an Oast house or hop kiln on the property - where hops were fermented and dried
They intend to convert it, with permission, into a separate guest suite
The dogs and their cat have been imported from South Africa.  Lots of character!
The fire pit was making good coals as we went to sit outside in the early evening before supper
First, some glasses of chilled local Blanc de Blanc 2013 from Gusbourne Estate in Appledore, Kent
An impressive example of how good sparkling wines from the South of England can be;
definitely what Gary and Kathy are aiming for 
Crisp and clean with some lees notes; tasted blind, we might have thought it was from across the Channel, it was that good. From €34.84, ZAR640, £36.69
A tired Christy joined us; it was very pleasant sitting out drinking good wine and chatting over some fresh bread, paté and a dip
Getting a bit chilly and it’s time to go inside for supper. It’s autumn. The days are still quite long but the nights are getting colder
An inglenook fireplace in the beam ceilinged dining room which, with its long table, is a great place to entertain
Kathy had made us a wonderful supper of tender and flavourful slow-roasted and falling apart Greek style lamb
with Tzatziki, a beetroot salad topped with feta cheese, gem squash, and other accompanying dishes and salads
Gary opened a special bottle of Jordan Sophia, which was a very, very good pairing with the lamb - a superb wine 
We managed to get through two bottles; it was so good 
We had brought some desserts and pastries with us and we had them with the Jordan dessert wine, Mellifera,
a Noble Late Harvest made from their Riesling. Full of honey as the name suggests,
with good fruit acidity balancing the high sugar content, and such a good wine with very sweet desserts
Next morning, John was up very early and took some photographs of Mousehall and its land, as the early light is so beautiful
The Oast House in the rising sun
and Mousehall catching the early morning rays
The cowl on the oast house keeps the weather out of the Oast House. It always has its back into the wind
with the finger, which carries a mouse motif, pointing in the direction toward which the wind is blowing
The front garden has quite a slope
They have planted hops, usually an important ingredient in beer, but these may end up in gin
They have a small flock of black headed Dorper sheep (a cross between Dorset and Persian) in one of their pastures, brought from South Africa. Importing livestock from SA to the UK means they have to be quarantined en route, either in Germany or in Australia. These are well-travelled sheep
Healthy Chardonnay leaves
The vineyard
Foxgloves in the hedgerows
Autumn showing on the Rowan tree with red berries and pink leaves
One of the lovely, friendly family dogs
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