Rathfinny Wine Estate

Mark the Bold of Sussex

Two articles have appeared this week on the excellent Berry Brothers and Rudd blog site to do with the Sussex PDO, which is still pending submission by DEFRA to the European Commission.

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The first http://bbrblog.com/2016/01/28/when-it-comes-to-english-wine-is-sussex-superior-yea/ argued in favour. Highlighting how as the English Wine Industry expands  “so it becomes more important than ever to put structures in place to protect and promote its regional identities.”

The second blog http://bbrblog.com/2016/01/29/when-it-comes-to-english-wine-is-sussex-superior-nay/ argues against establishing regional PDOs, on the grounds that “Regional appellations would not benefit enough people, consumers and producers alike, to warrant being taken seriously.”

What both blogs seem to ignore is that PDOs are not just about where the grapes come from, or what’s inside the bottle. It is all about the quality of the product and the name associated with that quality product. According the the EU Law: A PDO is a ‘designation of origin’ to describe ‘a product, whose quality and characteristics are essentially … due to a particular geographical environment’, which includes ‘its inherent natural’ as well as ‘human factors’.

Launching the Sussex PDO has enabled Sussex wine producers to establish a minimum set of rules for wine making in Sussex. They won’t stifle creative wine making, but if you really don’t like the rules you don’t have to follow them – you can still make wine in Sussex, you just can’t call it Sussex.

It’s worth remembering that this desire to establish a quality benchmark is not new.  In August 1395 Duke Philip the Bold of Burgundy established what might be considered the first appellation. He introduced a set of rules to do with wine making in Burgundy, including banning the use of organic fertiliser (horse manure). The Burgundy region stretches from Dijon to Lyon, a distance of about 120 miles. As a wine growing region it encompasses various soil types and micro climatic conditions (various terroirs), and a further 100 appellations (now known as PDOs) exist within the Burgundy region.

For a great explanation about Burgundy visit Wine Folly site- http://winefolly.com/review/guide-to-burgundy-wine-with-maps/

What we are attempting to establish for Sussex is a much higher quality benchmark for wine making than the current English PDO, which sadly adopted the minimum set of standards for ‘quality’ wine under European law. For example, in order to pass the English PDO only 1 person out of 5 has to say the wine has ‘no-faults’, whilst to qualify as a Sussex wine it will have to pass a qualitative assessment. I have tasted too many poor English wines which are labeled as ‘Quality English Wine’ under the English PDO.  We wanted to establish a stricter set of rules for Sussex. After all we’re putting Sussex on our label and I don’t want someone else’s wine to drag down the great name of Sussex.

So heres to a glass of Sussex…. Cheers.

PS – Just for the record – we produced over 12,000 bottles of wine last year and expect to bottle over 30,000 in March, but sadly our first Sussex Sparkling wine won’t be released until 2018. You’ll just have to be patient. It’s all about the quality!

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