Last week the Metropole Hotel in Brighton played host to the snappily titled International Cool Climate Wine Symposium (ICCWS). The event was opened by Jancis Robinson who made the case for DEFRA to take the industry more seriously http://www.jancisrobinson.com/articles/defra-needs-to-take-english-wine-seriously – It was really a coming of age for the English Wine Industry, as some of the great and good from the world of wine academia, media and the blogosphere descended on Brighton to discuss topics as wide ranging as Managing Phenolics, Pest and Diseases to Oenotourism.
Our whole team was in attendance at various times over the three days and we all seemed to learn something new. However, for the English wine industry it was an opportunity to showcase some of the fantastic wine being produced in England. Well done to all the organisers but especially the team from Ridgeview, who seemed to have done nothing else for the last six months but work on this event, it was spectacular.
Yours truly was asked to talk about the Challenges in developing regional brand identities and specifically the logic behind brand Sussex. It’s a challenging time for English wine as brand England is only just getting the international recognition it deserves, mainly for our sparkling wines, and certain members of the English wine industry are understandably concerned that launching a Geographical Indicator, a PDO, for Sussex will dilute the efforts to promote ‘English’. However, the reason we are launching the PDO now is that, as the industry expands it becomes more and more difficult to reach a consensus on rules to do with wine making. We also believe that most wines are known by their wine region. Most wine merchants already display wine by region and Waitrose, the largest distributor of English wine, already segment English wine by county. The point is that it is already happening, we are just formalising the process, introducing a stricter set of rules to ensure that wines that bear the great name Sussex have reached a certain quality standard.
It was interesting that after the talk a Canadian wine producer approached me and said how in his experience every time a new region was created in Canada everyone bemoaned about how unfair it was but it improved wine standards across the board.
Rathfinny is very proudly English but we happen to make our wine in Sussex so it seems natural to us that as well as promoting the brand England we should protect brand Sussex. For as Jamie Goode stated in his closing address at the ICCWS conference “once you separate place from the product, you’ve lost your competitive advantage as a wine producer“. Or as Oz Clark said “When you know the place, and the people, a wine will never taste the same again. It can only taste better.”
The ICCWS 2020 will be held in Ontario Canada – they have a hard act to follow.