Just recently the Duchess of Cornwall visited Sussex to open the country’s first dedicated wine research centre. The facility at Plumpton College, which of course has its own established vineyard, includes a tasting room, laboratories and bottling plant and offers a university-accredited BSc in viticulture and oenology – believed to be the first English-language wine production degree in Europe.
Wine making came to the area initially with the Romans – and in fact the English wines which were produced locally were acclaimed and sent far afield by ship! They are now making a huge comeback – getting more awards than the French districts.
Sussex is a highly appropriate location for such a course since this county does a very good line in wine, both still and sparkling, as proved by the many awards Sussex wine has won. Our chalky South Downs soil is said to be similar to that of the Champagne region in France and the climate is increasingly tending towards that of mainland Europe – well OK, that’s apparently the long-term trend, even if this past winter didn’t feel quite like that.
We’re not allowed to call English fizz Champagne, but Nyetimber Vineyard was set up specifically to take on that market and is one of the UK’s largest vineyards. My award for the best name has to be Breaky Bottom; and for the least likely name Rathfinny, which despite sounding like a Scottish whisky producer is an East Sussex estate near Alfriston run by a graduate of the aforementioned Plumpton course.
There’s Tinwood Vineyard and Estate, who do sparkling wines and others who are at Halnaker, just north of Chichester. tinwoodestate.com They do tastings as well as Harvest experiences.
Lurgashall Vineyard in “no mans land” north of Petworth!! – its a little tricky to find but sooo worth it when you do! They also make fruit and flower wines and liquers and honey mead! www.lurgashall.co.uk
Others include Ridgeview (at Ditchling Common), Bolney, Sedlescombe – a certified biodynamic producer – Nutbourne, Upperton (near Petworth) and Carr Taylor (near Hastings); Apologies if I’ve left any out, but the point is that choice is everything and many of the vineyards offer tours and tastings, so not only can you find something nice to go with those local-produce meals cooked in your self-catering holiday cottage, but you can also find the perfect way to take the taste of Sussex home in a bottle. They’ve all got websites with the information you’ll need to plan a visit. What a lovely way to wind down on your Sussex holiday!
See our Pinterest board of Sussex Vineyards for some more places to visit and sample their wares!
© Andrew Gardner of Amberley House Cottages 2014 and Gayle Palmer / Chichester Self Catering 2015