Still and sparkling wines produced in Sussex have joined Champagne, Prosecco, Burgundy and more on the list of food and drink products given geographically protected status.
Protected designation of origin (PDO) status means products for consumption have to be produced, processed and prepared in a specific geographical area to carry its name. It was a seven-year process for Sussex wines to get their branding certified.
Metro.co.uk checked into Rathfinny in Sussex, the UK’s largest purpose-built vineyard, to see how the bubbles measure up…
Driving through the Rathfinny estate in the South Downs National Park suddenly transports you from the mayhem of the ever chock-a-blocked motorways to a sedate Champagne-style setting.
Sat on the same chalk band as its neighbour across the pond, this sprawling 600-acre vineyard is as pretty as a picture, with manicured vines set in meticulously straight lines, a rolling terroir running into a verdant valley, and slips of blue visible in the form of the English Channel.
The Rathfinny is the largest purpose-built vineyard in the UK (Picture: Michael O’Nion)
Founded by former city slickers Sarah and Mark Driver in 2010, this vineyard has gone from strength to strength over the years and the announcement on June 15 that Sussex wines have been awarded protected designation of origin (PDO) status will no doubt propel its success further.
The Drivers purchased the plot of land Rathfinny sits on for its positioning and soil type but it took months of planning before the fields would be fit for grape-bearing vines. They concentrated on growing four principal grape varieties – Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier and Pinot Gris – to create the sparkling wine they had in mind.
The first Sussex Sparkling wine produced in line with the strict Sussex PDO guidelines was bottled in early 2015 with this batch released in the summer of 2018. Two years later, Rathfinny released their full range of vintage sparkling wines including a Classic Cuvée, a Blanc de Noirs, a Blanc de Blancs and a Rosé Brut.
Along with having a complete high-tech production facility on the site, the vineyard is now home to a shop, a stunning Michelin guide-recommended restaurant called the Tasting Room led by head chef Chris Bailey and a beautiful barn conversion which has 10 chic bedrooms, a restaurant, a marquee events space and sun-drenched courtyard.
The Rathfinny sparkling wines are brut in style with low sugar content, in a bid to let the flavours of the grape shine, so be prepared for a drier taste (Picture: Michael O’Nion)
New for this summer, there is also a portable dining cart called The Hut, which has been installed next to the Tasting Room. This is a great option if you can’t get into the highly-acclaimed restaurant as no booking is necessary and there are picnic tables and deck chairs so you can sit back and soak up the heavenly views.
My partner and I stopped at The Hut before a vineyard tour and tasting session which, we’d booked as …read more
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