Raise a toast to Sussex – winemakers are reaching straight for the bubbly to celebrate victory in a long-running bid to secure Sussex PDO status for the region
One small sip for man, one giant leap for mankind. Having first begun the process to turn Sussex into an appellation back in 2015, Sussex-based wine producers such as Rathfinny, Ridgeview, Albourne and Bolney have reason to celebrate after achieving the coveted protected status.
Delayed as the result of Brexit, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) has finally recognised Sussex wine as a Protected Designation of Origin (PDO), giving it the same status as Champagne and Prosecco.
This means still and sparkling wines can only be referred to as ‘Sussex’ if they are grown in the region – which encompasses both counties of West Sussex and East Sussex – and meet a strict set of conditions which will be confirmed in the coming weeks.
The wine will formally enter the register on 5 July, 2022, giving the product the same legal status as Jersey Royal potatoes, Cornish clotted cream and Stilton cheese.
It’s not enough just to grow some grapes in your back garden, of course – Sussex sparkling wine must be made in the traditional method, predominantly from classic sparkling wine grape varieties – Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier – grown within the region. Arbanne, Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc, Petit Meslier and Pinot Noir Précoce may also be used.
Wines must have a minimum abv of 11%, a minimum of 6 grams per litre expressed as tartaric acid, a maximum of 0.5 grams per litre expressed as acetic acid and a maximum of 150mg per litre of sulphur dioxide.
Furthermore, it’s required that at least 85% of the grapes used to make Sussex sparkling wine must be of the nominated year of any vintage, while single variety wines are required to contain at least 90% of the stated variety – plus many other strict regulations.
The good news is, any producer of wine in Sussex can apply for PDO status. The members will elect a small committee to manage the PDO scheme.
Mark Driver, joint owner of Rathfinny Estate commented: “The ambition is that in ten years’ time you will walk into a restaurant in New York, Beijing and Tokyo and the bartender asks you – “Would you like a glass of Champagne or can I recommend a delicious glass of Sussex.”
PLUS: plan a Sussex-based summer wine adventure this summer
1 Spend the night at Rathfinny Wine Estate’s Flint Barns
Ideal for something both rural and riveting, book a night at Rathfinny Wine Estate’s Flint Barns, offering a unique and historic escape located in the Cradle Valley. Painstakingly-restored with contemporary furnishings to house 10 en-suite bedrooms, each abode features luxe mattresses, soft bed linen, beautiful local artwork and of course, nearby access to some award-winning Rathfinny wine enjoyed with views of the South Downs and platefuls of exceptional produce. rathfinnyestate.com
2 Sip the day away with Bolney Wine Estate’s Ultimate Wine and Food Tasting with Tour
Ideal for foodies, enjoy a vineyard tour and wine tasting in Sussex at Bolney Wine Estate near Haywards Heath. This fun vineyard wine tasting tour includes a glass of sparkling wine on arrival, a vineyard tour, followed by a tutored tasting of five of our award-winning wines (hic) with a food matching plate. There’s even the opportunity to sample delicious Bolney Estate Gin, before the experience ends with seasonal mezze board and of course, a belt-busting dessert. £60.00pp via bolneywineestate.com
3 Limber up with Wiston Estate’s Marmalade Bike Tour & Lunch
Wiston Estate near Pulborough are collaborating with local business Marmalade MTB, who offer guided bike tours of the surrounding area for a day on the trails followed by a well-deserved lunch at Chalk Restaurant. Chalk is an excellent start and finish point for a private guided off-road ride that explores the best of the South Downs. Enjoy hire of high-quality mountain bikes – either electric or conventional, then meet your Marmalade guide at Chalk and enjoy a tailored mountain bike route around Wiston Estate with one of their professional local guides. £230.00pp via wistonestate.com