Leading Sussex Wineries join to promote Sussex Wine Region

Top Sussex Wine Producers have teamed together to form ‘Sussex Wineries’ with the aim of promoting regional Sussex Wine tourism. Launched at the Brighton seaside restaurant Murmur on Monday evening, industry, press, trade and peers gathered together to celebrate this new collaboration.

Sussex Wineries is a joining together of inspiring wine estates who are responsible for producing many internationally acclaimed wines; featuring Albourne Estate, Bluebell Vineyard Estates, Bolney Wine Estate, Oxney Organic, Rathfinny Estate, Ridgeview, Stopham Vineyards and Wiston Estate. Sam Lintner CEO of Bolney and Tamara Roberts CEO of Ridgeview launched the new initiative with a welcome speech.

Guest gathered together with the Iconic backdrop of Brighton’s West Pier to sample some of the very best of the award-winning Sussex wines with perfectly matched canapés provided by Murmur, the latest venture of Great British Menu Chef Michael Bremner. The event was supported by Riedel glassware, with wines were served in Riedel Veritas glasses specifically chosen for their ability to maximise flavour and versatility for still and sparkling wines.

Sussex is now widely regarded as producing some of the best sparkling wine in the world with wine producers having already won trophies in many international wine competitions. Sussex vineyards are based on a diverse range of soil types, including the iconic chalk of the South Downs. Sussex is also recognised as one of the sunniest areas in England. These inherent natural factors make Sussex an ideal region to produce grapes of outstanding quality for wine production.

The Sussex Wine website http://sussexwineries.co.uk/ is now live with information about all the wineries and opportunities for visitors locally, nationally and internationally. The first collaborative event is Sussex Wineries Weekend celebrating ‘Sussex Day’ from the 15th – 17th of June. Each winery will have a schedule of events throughout the weekend to encourage visitors to experience the diversity of what is on offer in Sussex as a wine region.

Sussex Wineries encourage visitors to discover their wines, tasting rooms, cafés, accommodation, tours and experiences with the aim of working together to put Sussex on the International Wine Tourism Map.

How does snow affect the vines?

By Ridgeview Vineyard Manager Matt Strugnell

In this cold and snowy week, how are our vines coping with ‘The Beast from the East?’ Thankfully our vines are fully dormant (asleep) at the moment. The coldest spot at Ridgeview was -10.0 C early on Wednesday morning, and probably not enough to cause any damage. Another drop of 5 degrees, and we might start to see a few buds being damaged, but it would take a further 10 degree drop to start seeing significant problems. There is a general rule that if the annual minimum temperature falls below -20 degrees C, more than once a decade, then problems occur. Some cultivars are more cold hardy than others; Chardonnay is slightly more winter hardy than Pinot noir for example. But overall, in Southern England, periods of extreme cold are fairly uncommon.

Fortunately most of our pruning is completed which could be cold and tricky in this weather. I don’t expect these cold temperatures to have an effect on budburst, or indeed the timing of the coming season. Grapevines, like most fruit crops do require a certain amount of chilling over winter, to kick start the next growing season. So budburst is really more about how the seasonal temperature during second half of March and early April is. Of course, as the buds start to swell, and the new shoots for this year’s crop emerge, this is the time we have to start being vigilant for Spring frosts, which, whilst not causing long term injury to the vines, can impact this year’s crop. There will be more about what we do to protect our vines in spring  in the next update.

Crowned Best Sussex Drinks Producer

Ridgeview was proclaimed the Sussex Drink Producer of the Year at the 12th annual Sussex Food & Drink Awards held at Brighton’s Amex Stadium. 15,000 members of the Sussex public voted for the awards that are designed to celebrate excellence among local food and drink. 400 guests gathered together at the black tie gala dinner to enjoy a seven-course banquet created by Sodexo Prestige with the best of local ingredients. The awards scheme is run by Natural Partnership and the Drinks Producer Award sponsored by ‘The Pass’ Restaurant at South Lodge Exclusive Hotel.

This is the 3rd time Ridgeview have won this prestigious award which is a testament to their reputation as a trusted brand in exciting growth industry of English sparkling wine. The Judges commented “Ridgeview is a thriving, sustainable wine business which is also a centre of excellence bringing huge benefits to many others in the food and drink community around them”. Ridgeview’s Assistant Vineyard Manager Luke Spalding was awarded runner-up Sussex Young Farmer of the Year at the event.

Tamara Roberts Ridgeview’s CEO said “We are so proud to have received this award in such a competitive category. It is wonderful that we are all really making a name for Sussex as a leading light in craft beer, wines and spirits production. It is a real honour be voted by the general public and a testament to the passion and dedication of our fantastic team”.

Ridgeview partner with Polar Explorer Ben Saunders

(Ben Saunders – Photo credit – Canada Goose)

Ridgeview has teamed up with the inspirational Polar explorer Ben Saunders as a supporter and official wine partner. Ben is currently attempting the first ever solo, unassisted and unsupported crossing of Antarctica. As one of the world’s leading polar explorers, Ben has covered more than 6,000 kms on foot in the Polar regions since 2001. This latest expedition was first attempted by Ben’s friend Lt Col Henry Worsley who nearly completed the journey before falling ill and passing away in January 2016. Ben is determined to finish the expedition in Henry’s honour while raising money for the Endeavour fund.

After a chance meeting at Ridgeview with Ben Saunders, both parties got together to swap values and ideas. Together they instantly found a synergy between Ben’s ground-breaking, brave spirit and Ridgeview’s pioneering, bold efforts in establishing an English sparkling brand when it was unheard of as a product in the global world of wine.

Ben commented on the partnership from his tent in Antarctica: “The ability to celebrate – as well as to endure – is a vital part of any human endeavor. I’m proud to be partnering with Ridgeview, and a glass of their world-class sparkling wine is the perfect way to toast the completion (and indeed the launch) of an expedition. As a British, family-run company, Ridgeview have been unafraid to take on steep odds, giant competitors and lofty goals, and the wine they produce is testament to their passion and attention to detail. I’m delighted to be working with them”.

Ridgeview will be supporting Ben and following his inspirational journey. Tamara Roberts CEO of Ridgeview commented; “We were so inspired by Ben who is incredibly brave, determined and uncompromising with such an infectious spirit. We felt a great alignment with Ben’s values and not being afraid to be different. Ben’s latest journey in honour of his friend Lt Henry Worsley is so honourable and an inspiration to us all. We are looking forward to toasting a glass of Ridgeview with Ben on his return.”

Ben is one of the world’s leading polar explorers who has covered more than 6,000 kms on foot in the Polar regions since 2001. Ben completed the Scott Expedition that defeated Captain Scott and Ernest Shackleton in 2014 and holds the record for the longest solo Artic journey by a Briton. In this latest expedition Ben will be covering over 1000 miles which is expected to take around 65 days to reach his destination in the New Year.

Ridgeview will be closely following the journey of Ben Saunders and this admirable journey on his blog http://bensaunders.com/ You can also sponsor Ben and the Endeavour Fund directly at  http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/polarben

Vineyard Manager Matthew Strugnell reflects on 2017 growing season

2017 Harvest could be defined as a season of two halves: pre and post fruit set.

An early bud burst makes the viticulturist nervous.  The widely reported Spring frosts were indeed severe, and in some parts of the country, too severe for any of the usual frost protection methods.  At Ridgeview we were able to reduce any damage to the bare minimum using bougies.

May and June were both warm and sunny which led to very early flowering. We normally say that flowering occurs at some point during Wimbledon; this year we were in full flower in time for the French Open final.  Mid way through flowering, I calculated that we could well be harvesting on September 25th, a full 5 days earlier than we had ever picked before and only the second September harvest we have done.

The weather remained superb until the berries were petit pois size.  Late July, although the temperatures were still reasonable, we had well above average rainfall.  This continued throughout August, so berry growth was very rapid.  This had the potential to cause early botrytis, so canopy management and well timed sprays were crucial.

Veraison was early and fairly quick,  so my early prediction of Sept 25th held true.  The ripening period continued to be wet, so we selectively removed some fruit in the heaviest cropping areas.  We kept leaf removal to a minimum to give some aeration to the bunches, but to maximise photosynthesis.

Some bunch weights were very impressive.  Chardonnay was particularly good; high level of cropping (13,000kg / ha), well ripened and free of disease.  Pinot noir, the yields were lower but really flavoursome. Meunièr had some really huge ripe bunches, but fewer in number.

All in all a challenging year, but we got very good yields of ripe, lovely clean flavoursome fruit, and as a Vineyard Manager I couldn’t ask for much more than that!

Matthew Strugnell

Vineyard Manager