Sussex Wine Wins the Prizes
Once home to Roman vineyards, Southern England, in particular the counties of Sussex and Kent, enjoys the highest average daytime temperatures and hours of sunshine in the United Kingdom.
This temperate climate, combined with the favourable chalky soil conditions of the South Downs and Weald, provides the perfect combination for the numerous Sussex vineyards which have been established during the last two or three decades. Many of these flourishing vineyards are now producing award-winning wines – red, white, rosé and sparkling, champagne-type wines.
Breaky Bottom Vineyard
This Sussex vineyard idyllically nestles in a fold of the South Downs near the old market town of Lewes; according to the BBC wine expert, Oz Clarke: ‘There’s no more beautiful vineyard in Britain’.
Since its establishment in 1974, this Sussex vineyard has produced wines which have graced, among others, the tables of the G8 conference in Gleneagles, as well as winning several prizes. Seyval Blanc is the main grape variety grown at Breaky Bottom; Peter Hall, the owner of the vineyard, says that this grape makes the clean Loire-style wines for which he has become well-known.
Visitors will be greeted with a free wine-tasting session, however, do telephone to make an appointment first.
Plumpton Agricultural College
Considerable success with its wines means that Plumpton enjoys record applications for its courses in viticulture and oenology (the science and study of wine-making). Christopher Foss, Head of Wine Studies, says, with more than a hint of irony: “We are benefiting from a global disaster. It seems horrible, inappropriate, but that’s how it is… In less than 10 years, southern England will enjoy a climate similar to the Loire Valley, and in 20 years, a climate similar to Bordelais,” the vine-growing region around Bordeaux in southwest France.
The Plumpton Estate is situated in the lee of the South Downs and in 2009 it won a bronze medal for its 2008 Cloudy Ridge Dry White wine, at the Decanter World Wine Awards; its non-vintage sparkling wines, The Dean and The Dean Blush, both achieved silver medals at the annual UKVA (United Kingdom Vineyard Association) Wine of the Year Competition.
Sedlescombe Organic Vineyard
Located near the East Sussex border with Kent, Sedlescombe has been growing vines organically for over 30 years. Rated by wine expert, Jancis Robinson, as ‘some of the most delicious English wines’ she has ever tasted, these wines have also won a range of medals over recent years. From April to October, the vineyard offers tours combined with a ‘tutored tasting’ of their organic wines.
Situated just north of the ancient Sussex village of Ditchling, Ridgeview is arguably the most successful wine producer in the county at present, and this year it received the prestigious accolade: ‘Winemaker of the Year’, as well as the prize for the ‘Best Sparkling Wine in England’. These awards are in addition to the seven international medals already achieved by the wine-producing Roberts family business, in 2009 alone. In total, in a little over 9 years of wine sales, Ridgeview has won over 100 medals and 16 trophies in national and international competitions.
Ridgeview wines are now widely available in Waitrose and Oddbins, as well as through many independent speciality resellers. Ridgeview regularly organises courses in wine tasting, as well as welcoming visitors to the vineyard. Contact them first if you’re planning a trip.
These are just four of the many vineyards, which are now producing great Sussex wines; in addition, there are also several very young vineyards which are yet to start selling their wines.
So, taking due note of the warnings of global warming, Sussex wine looks set to continue winning the prizes.