“English grapes have super-acidity – the hallmark of a good sparkling wine.” Mike Roberts
What better way to start a summer weekend than whizzing through the British countryside with the roof down en route to a tour and tasting at a local vineyard. Ridgeview Wine Estate is located just outside the quaint little village of Ditchling at the foot of the South Downs in rural Sussex.
Makers of award-winning English Sparkling Wine, Ridgeview is a second-generation vineyard and winery business whose wine is favoured by the Royals (served at the Queen’s 80th birthday bash, Diamond Jubilee and various state visits) and is the official supplier for Downing Street receptions. Luckily for us it also appears on many wine specialists and supermarket shelves as well as in local pubs and restaurants.
Founded in 1995 by husband and wife duo Mike and Christine Roberts, Ridgeview has gone from strength to strength since the release of the first vintage in 1996. Their high quality sparkling wines has earned them a plethora of national and international awards including the 2010 Decanter World Wine Award for top sparkling wine. The Ridgeview 2006 Grosvenor Blanc-de-Blanc, made from only white grapes, was the first ever non-French wine to win this prestigious wine industry accolade. Roberts senior, now deceased, was awarded an MBE in 2011 for his services to the industry in his role of Chairman of the English Wine Producers.
Our visit started in the vineyard where our tour guide, Simon Roberts (owner and son of the founders), explained how and why they grow and produce their sparkling wine in this region. The Sussex vineyard benefits from a similar climate and topography as the renowned Champagne region in France, cool weather that favours the growing of acidic grapes perfect for the production of sparkling wines.
Three classic grape varieties are grown in the Sussex vineyard, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier and along with the harvest from partner growers in the region, six Ridgeview wines are currently produced. Once inside we toured both parts of the state-of-the-art specialist winery (we were unable to descend into the cellar on this occasion) and learnt the ins and outs of the sparkling wine making process that uses traditional grape varieties and methods.
The tour finale was the all important tasting session followed by the opportunity to purchase your favourite tipple. We extended our visit by taking advantage of the lunch option, a hamper filled with local Sussex produce including Beal’s Farm charcuterie and Sussex Charmer cheese selections, Springs smoked salmon accompanied by fresh bread from Flint Owl Bakery. Sipping Ridgeview’s Signature Blend of Bloomsbury NV, eating fresh local food with views across the vines below and South Downs beyond was certainly a nice way to conclude our visit.
English sparkling wines are definitely giving their French neighbours a run for their money. If you fancy an insight into the workings of a family-run vineyard and winery then I thoroughly recommend a visit to Ridgeview. If you are a fan of sparkling wines look out for it on the shelves of your nearest M & S and Waitrose.
Ridgeview Wine Estate
Location: Fragbarrow Lane, Ditchling Common, Sussex. BN6 8TP
Opening Times: Monday – Sunday 11am – 4pm
Telephone: 01444 242040
For more information about the tours and dates click here
All views are my own based on my own personal experience. Unless otherwise stated all photos © Jo Brett 2017. All rights reserved.
Read more about Brighton and Hove in previous posts Discover the UK | Brighton & Hove, Minication | Brighton, Food for Friends | Brighton, The No Plan, Plan | Brighton and British Airways i360 | Brighton