Rathfinny Wine Estate

Sussex Sparkling PDO

New Year is a time for reflection and New Year’s resolutions. Mine normally revolve around losing weight and getting fit, after a period of excess it makes sense to have a few days off alcohol and try and shed a few kilos. However, this year is slightly different.

2015 starts with us moving into production and sales mode. We have spent four years planting and building and now we leave that behind us, for now, and we can start building the market for our wines. That is partly why we are working to establish a PDO for Sussex Sparkling.

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PDOs are attached to products with a Protected Designated Origin, such as Cornish Pasties, Stilton Cheese and Champagne. The old ‘Appellations’ have gone and have been replaced by PDOs and the less strict PGIs (Products of Geographical Indication, like Melton Mowbray pork pies).

The Sussex Sparkling PDO will be a quality benchmark for sparkling wines from Sussex. The PDO retains many of the rules associated with the English Quality Sparkling Wine PDO and many of the rules associated with producing Champagne, but it’s stricter. So as well as being traditional bottle fermented sparkling wine, Sussex Sparking has to be aged for longer (15 months), pass a qualitative assessment and stricter oenological rules to do with wine making and the quality of the grapes and wine prior to bottling. Lastly, the grapes have to be grown in the Sussex and the wines produced in Sussex.

Many question why we are keen on this PDO? The simple answer is that as the English wine market grows we need to be able to differentiate ourselves from other producers in the rest of England and build a brand for Sussex Sparkling. So in ten years time a waiter will ask you “would you like a glass of Champagne or delicious Sussex Sparkling?”

The majority of the South Downs run through Sussex and the vast majority of Sussex vineyards are planted either on the chalk or just to the north of the South Downs on the Greensand. This geological landmark, now the UK’s largest national park, together with our climate, Sussex tends to be drier than many parts of Southern England and holds the records for sunshine hours, provides the ideal area for growing grapes in England. It’s no coincidence that Sussex Sparkling winemakers have won more awards than any other area in England. So for this reason we have been working with a group of Sussex wine producers and DEFRA to create a PDO for Sussex Sparkling. Formalising our unique wine growing area along the same lines as Burgundy, the Rhone, or Champagne, although Champagne is now produced from grapes grown in Picardy!

So as we start to prune our vines I’m very excited about 2015.  We will have a small quantity of still white wine for sale under the Cradle Valley label in the spring and we will bottle our first Rathfinny Sussex Sparkling wine for release in 2017/18.

Happy New Year to you all and may you stick to your resolutions. I, for one, will be trying to eat less, do more exercise and shed the kilos I’ve put on over the last month, yeah right, I said that last year as well, but at least the intention is there!

Mark Driver



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