South Downs Cellars in Hurstpierpoint and Lindfield
PUBLISHED: 11:55 24 March 2016 | UPDATED: 15:29 24 March 2016
Jilly Goolden explores a treasure trove of a wine shop with outlets in Hurstpierpoint and Lindfield
Since I’ve begun seeking out the most individual independent wine shops in Sussex for you, my eyes have been opened to the delights and idiosyncrasies found hidden in these quirky, individual shops and permeating the wine racks. It was the biography of the owner of South Downs Cellars in Hurstpierpoint and Lindfield that lured me to her first shop. Lucy Driver has a passion for horses, wine and cats, immersed herself in the wine business while teaching English in France, came back to the UK and worked in Brighton and Tunbridge Wells before diving in at the deep end and creating her own wine shop slap in the middle of Hurstpierpoint.
It had been a second-hand clothes shop, so Lucy was empowered to change absolutely everything and create her ideal wine treasure trove, which she lives above. When I was a child I started a ‘thematic’ stamp collection, choosing stamps with beautiful pictures from around the world and grouping them together. And Lucy seems to have used the same technique when sourcing and arranging her wines. The most beautiful, evocative labels, liberally illustrated with images of animals and birds, weave through her collection. Her best-selling wine range is from Albourne, a newish Sussex vineyard down the road, the labels illustrated with wildlife found in the vineyard.
It’s a very personal shop; people trust Lucy and come to her with their menu for the evening to ask advice. And they come with empty flagons to fill with one of the two craft beers she offers on tap. And increasingly they come to discover intriguing gins. Gin is so fashionable that the shop sold as much gin last year as in the previous ten combined. Top choice is Blackdown (distilled near Petersfield) at £28.99, followed by Brighton at £41.99. Customers also loyally flock to her regular wine tastings in the tiny shop, sleuthing out new finds.
The sister branch is in Lindfield; whereas Hurstpierpoint is vigilantly managed by Lucy, a self-confessed traditionalist whose passion is for European wines (white Burgundy being her main love), Lindfield customers demand more wines from the New World. “The shop used to be a branch of Threshers,” Lucy explains wistfully “and the legacy of a high demand for New World wines lives on.”
Almost all the walls in the original shop are lined with wine racks, but squeezed in above the counter there are impressive awards for Regional Wine Merchant, Independent Retailer of the Year and runner up Small Independent Wine Retailer, all earned in 2015. She is obviously doing a lot of things right. And I can vouch for the absolute deliciousness of one wine – her own English sparkler, South Downs Bin 2 2009, £26.95 (made by Wiston in Washington, West Sussex). It is French in style, elegant and subtle but with the delightful generosity of classic English fruit. She had 2,000 bottles, but stocks are depleting fast, so hurry if you want to try it.
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