Harvest 2019

Simon Roberts – Ridgeview Winemaker & Matt Strugnell – Ridgeview Vineyard Manager

Off the back of the glorious 2018 growing season which delivered fantastic quality in both yield and volume, the bar had been set very high for the 2019 vintage. The season started very well with a relatively mild winter, followed by limited frost risk in Spring and normal timing for budburst. Early growing conditions were unsettled with swings between cool and hot spells of weather, but fortunately we were blessed with great flowering weather which resulted in excellent fruit set.  The remaining summer was again a mixed bag; cool wet spells followed by mini heatwaves. Canopy management and vigilance was needed as disease pressure was high. The ripening phase probably saw the most consistent period of good weather; lots of sunshine and warm temperatures right up until the end of September.

We were then faced with one of the wettest Octobers that we can recall in our 24 year history. The challenge then became co-ordinating picking dates to avoid the rain and making sure the grapes had time to dry out before pressing. We were fortunate that our experienced enabled us to get our Ridgeview grapes in between spells of the changeable weather. Our Pinots came in first with very large bunches and good to average yield, the Pinot Meunier being a particular highlight. The Chardonnay needed a little longer on the vine and came in lovely and clean with sugars and acidity a little lower than normal. Grapes from the various sites over the South East have been variable, the earlier ripening vineyards have done really well whereas those later ripening and higher altitude have struggling a little in the wet weather. 2019 was a year when we could say experience really mattered. Our cool climate can throw us challenges and this is a year where we can proudly say that our care and due diligence in the vineyard really paid off. We have had the result of good volumes of clean grapes with nice concentration of phenolic flavours.

Start of the Home Run

BY OUR RIDGEVIEW VINEYARD MANAGER MATT STRUGNELL

We were lucky the weather was kind to us for flowering which helps determine our crop size. This all happened towards the end of June and the bunches we now see are filling out with berries. August has been a bit hit and miss, so we have been working hard to keep the vine canopy neat and tidy; by tucking the shoots into foliage ‘catch’ wires, and by trimming the tops and sides.

Tidy vines make them look great, but it also plays an important role in helping our grapes ripen to a perfect condition. By keeping the canopy neat we are reducing shade and humidity which helps reduce the risk of fungal diseases. Also, the canopy is capturing as much sunshine as possible which is essential for ripening the crop.

Moving through August we have seen the start of another change, which is veraison. This is easy to spot on the Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier as the skins start to change colour from green, through pink to red. By the time they are harvested they will have turned almost black. This is not so obvious in Chardonnay, but they will start to turn from green to a golden colour and the berries start to have a more translucent appearance.

The end of veraison signals the start of ripening, and therefore we are on the home run before harvest begins. This certainly won’t be like 2018 which has been described as a once in a generation year, however it is looking incredibly promising though!

New Trophy Celebrating ‘Mike Roberts MBE’

Wines of Great Britain Annual Awards celebrate the successes of the flourishing UK Wine Industry. Ridgeview Bloomsbury NV was awarded a Gold Medal and Presidents Trophy for Best Classic Cuvee at this year’s ceremony. Members of the Ridgeview family attended the 2019 awards at the historic setting of Vintners Hall. For the first time, in honour of the memory of Mike Roberts who was the previous industry Chairman of English Wine Producers, Ridgeview sponsored a new trophy ‘Mike Roberts MBE Best Vintage Classic Cuvee’.

The new trophy honours the brand producing the best vintage classic blend, a style Mike championed from the very earliest Ridgeview vintages. It was tributed at the Wines GB Awards ceremony as ‘Celebrating Mike Roberts, Ridgeview’s Co-Founder and leading light in English sparkling wines’. Mike worked tirelessly and with passion to promote the industry as a whole. Peter Gladwin Vice Chair of Wines of Great Britain commented “The ‘Mike Roberts Trophy’ for the best Classic Cuvee sparkling might be a wonderful legacy that could be awarded for many years to come”.

Chris Roberts, Mike’s wife and co-founder or Ridgeview, attended the ceremony and was proud to award to the new trophy to Roebuck Estates for their 2014 Classic Cuvee.’. Chris commented that “The trophy is a wonderful tribute so closely associated Mikes belief that England could produce excellent sparkling wine, as good, if not better than others around the world”. On receiving the trophy James Mead from Roebuck Estates responded “We were beyond delighted to receive such a huge accolade in honour of Mike who was such an inspiration and iconic figure in the English wine industry”.

Mike’s son-in-law Simon Larder who also works in the family business and attended the ceremony remarked; “Being five years since we lost Mike it is an appropriate moment for his position in the industry to be remembered, recognised and rewarded. There have been huge changes in the industry which have only come about due to his initial energy and commitment to the sparkling wine cause in England. Others may win the ‘Mike Roberts Trophy’ but there’s only one King of Fizz.”

A further new accolade was announced – the first Lifetime Achievement Award was presented to Chris Foss, recently retired Head of Wine Studies at Plumpton College, who founded the department 31 years ago. Ridgeview have worked closely with Chris Foss during his time at Plumpton. Chris has been instrumental to the training and education of the growing English Wine industry.

The 2019 competition was sponsored by two main partners – Waitrose & Partners, a long-standing champion of English and Welsh wines, Ridgeview are proud partners of Waitrose selling their Ridgeview Bloomsbury NV and helping produce Waitrose own label Leckford blend. The awards were also sponsored by Rankin Brothers & Sons, a leading manufacturer and supplier of bottle closures to the winemakers of England and Wales who Ridgeview work closely with.

What is Cellar Door?

BY OUR RETAIL AND EVENTS MANAGER, HANNAH SIMPSON-BANKS

A vineyard shop, tasting room, bottle shop or wine bar … at Ridgeview we hear all manner of phrases used when talking about our facilities. The term that resonates most strongly with us however is “Cellar Door”. The term “Cellar Door” quite simply comes from the history of wineries past, when wine samples were first offered for tasting from winery premises. Whilst the name has stuck, the setting of our informal samplings and tastings has come on since the early days of the Cellar Door – don’t expect to be tasting wines in a darkened underground room anymore!

At Ridgeview our Cellar Door has the benefit of being separate from, but with great views of, our winery and has a spectacular vista overlooking the vineyards and gorgeous South Downs beyond. Our cellar door is the place to come for a glimpse behind the scenes, to try our award-winning wines for yourself with complimentary tastings, meet our passionate team or learn more about our history and how we make our wines with our ever-popular wine tours.

One of the greatest benefits of a cellar door though, is the ability to “try before you buy”, offering you the opportunity to compare different grapes, blends and vintages, you can explore your personal preferences and discover new favourites. To get the most out of your tasting ask questions – there’s no such thing as a silly question and we love talking to our visitors about all things wine! The cellar door is more than just a place to experience wine though.

At Ridgeview we also curate a range of exclusive special events throughout the year designed to give our visitors another way to experience Ridgeview. From Yoga Brunches to Chef Pop-ups and even our own music festival, we aren’t afraid to break the mould of what might be considered a “traditional” vineyard and winery offering.

And to leave you with one piece of advice, next time you encounter a cellar door, don’t be afraid of simply turning up and saying “Hi, I’d like to taste some of your wines! How do tastings work here?” because after all that is what we’re here for.

Time to Bloom

BY OUR RIDGEVIEW VINEYARD MANAGER MATT STRUGNELL

At this time of the year the vineyard takes on a very different appearance. The shoots are rapidly forming a full-height canopy, making the vineyard look a lot greener than it was a few weeks ago. It has been said that you can almost hear the shoots growing.

Now the risk of damage from spring frost is past, the next critical stage that the weather affects is flowering. The bunches are now formed and the flowers are nearly ready to open; each flower can potentially become a berry. This can begin at any time from mid-June to early July. The flowering period can last anything from a few days to a few weeks. The time that the process starts and the period it lasts for is largely down to the weather. If it is warm and dry, then flowering will start earlier and take less time to finish, whereas cooler weather will delay the start and prolong the flowering period.

The weather will also affect how successful flowering is and when the fruit starts to set, we start predicting how ‘full’ the bunches are likely to be. With this information we can estimate how heavy the crop is. This is a matter of great importance for the winery but it is also one of the hardest things to get right, as the weight of the bunches can vary a lot. This is also the time when we can start predicting harvest dates. The time from mid-flowering to harvest is just over 100 days.

The question we are often asked is ‘how is this year’s harvest going to be?’ After flowering we have a good idea but growing grapes in a cool climate can be unpredictable, so the soundest answer is ‘we will let you know when the grapes are safely in the press.’

Royal Visit to Ridgeview

Ridgeview were delighted to welcome the Duchess of Cornwall for a tour of their Estate, whilst on her Royal visit to the county of East Sussex, especially to celebrate their recent success of being crowned ‘Best International Winemaker’ in the International Wine and Spirit Competition.

The Duchess of Cornwall, President of Wines of Great Britain since 2011, has a close connection to wine beginning through her father, Major Bruce Shand, who was a wine merchant. Her Royal Highness commented “Can I say what a huge pleasure it is to be here today. Not just that it has bought me back to Sussex, bought me back to Ditchling, where I used to be at school … but one of my hugest pleasures is being President of Wines of GB”

Her Royal Highness was able to see the progress at Ridgeview’s new £1.8m winery which will assist to double production in order to keep up with demand. Representatives from Trinder architects and Axio Builders were in attendance as well as Clydesdale Bank who are supporting the project alongside joint funding from the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development. With a focus on sustainability, the new purpose-built underground cellar capacity will enable Ridgeview to store up to £1m bottles in perfect conditions.

Ridgeview CEO Tamara Roberts had the pleasure to show the Duchess of Cornwall around the winery, introducing Her Royal Highness to members of the Ridgeview team and invited guests from trade and industry that have supported Ridgeview’s growth over the last 24 years: “We are delighted to be included in the Royal visit to East Sussex which is testament to the ever-increasing profile of English sparkling wine and Ridgeview’s prominent position within the industry.”

The Duchess of Cornwall made a welcome return to the county of East Sussex, since attending school in Plumpton and having fond memories of the area of Ditchling. The Royal engagements in East Sussex included a visit to Jamie’s Farm, Charleston House, Amex Community Stadium for the Sussex Women’s lunch before concluding at Ridgeview. The occasion was also a great moment for Ridgeview to honour the retirement of Chris Foss founder of local Plumpton Wine College’s Wine Division. The industry are grateful for Chris’s tireless efforts on improving English wine education and training for the past 31 years.

The Royal visit was a fabulous moment to celebrate the amazing 2018 harvest for English and Welsh wines, with a record-breaking 15.6 million bottles produced. Exports of English wine have doubled in the last 12 months, now exported to 40 different countries around the world. Ridgeview’s Head Winemaker Simon Roberts has just returned from a successful trip across the USA including a tasting a Google Headquarters in San Francisco and attending the Effervescence LA conference alongside other leading global sparkling wine makers, celebrating Ridgeview’s status as ‘International Winemakers of the Year’ by the IWSC, a first in the history of English Wine.

Simon Roberts, Ridgeview Head Winemaker commented: “We were very honoured to have our Patron, the Duchess of Cornwall visit the winery and meet our fantastic team who felt very privileged. It was great to invite many of our long-term supporters to celebrate our amazing day together”.

Ridgeview were thrilled that their status as pioneers in the historical rise of English sparkling wine was acknowledged with such a prestigious visit by Her Royal Highness, the Duchess of Cornwall.

For media or photo enquiries please contact mardi@ridgeview.co.uk

Charity Close to our Hearts

This Sunday members of the Ridgeview family will be taking part in the Sussex Heart Charity annual sponsored walk. The 5 mile walk along the Brighton seafront to Hove, from Brighton Marina raises money for this fantastic charity which is close to our hearts here at Ridgeview.

The Sussex Heart Charity supports the brilliant Sussex Heart ward where our founder Mike Roberts was cared for towards the end of his life and his son Simon, Ridgeview’s head winemaker, received a life-saving heart valve replacement in 2015. Last year, a member of the Ridgeview team was able to save a local life by using their CPR skills on a person who had collapsed in the street.

We feel incredibly proud of the work undertaken by the Sussex Heart charity which includes the installation of 170 automated external defibrillators, saving lives all over Sussex. If an automated external defibrillator is used quickly after Sudden Cardiac Arrest (along with CPR) the chances of survival increase to in excess of 50%.

The annual walk will be raising money for ​several ​new projects, ​which ​include ​​Recovery ​After ​Surgery ​service and automated external defibrillators ​at ​all ​railway ​stations ​throughout ​Sussex.​ We love the fact that monies raised will ​be ​used ​directly ​to ​benefit ​cardiac ​patients ​and ​their ​families ​in ​Sussex. There is still time to register and join us on this sponsored walk for Sussex Heart Charity or support us by donating to this worthy cause.

https://sussexheartcharity.org/

English Wine Week 25th May – 2nd June

We will be marking the occasion with a number of exciting partnerships and events in Sussex and London.
Below are details of what we are up to and where you can join us in celebrating our incredible, global, award-winning wines.

IN LONDON

Mare Street Market, Hackney
During the bank holiday weekend, we will be taking over the terrace garden at the boutique Mare St Market, pouring from midday until 7pm (25th, 26th and 27th May).
Throughout the weekend, guests will be able to purchase a glass of Ridgeview’s best-loved wines: Bloomsbury, Fitzrovia Rosé and Blanc de Noirs; additionally, available to buy is a specially paired food dish from the newly-opened BBQ.
www.marestreetmarket.com/#mare-street-market

Simpson’s In The Strand
For the whole week Simpson’s will be showcasing our top tier, limited release wines: Blanc de Blancs, Blanc de Noirs and Rose de Noirs.
Each wine will be available by the glass just for the week with bespoke food pairings.
www.simpsonsinthestrand.co.uk/

Wrights Bros
Throughout the week, Wrights Bros will be offering Bloomsbury by the glass at a special price when ordering selected dishes.
www.thewrightbrothers.co.uk

Other venues……
As always, Ridgeview will be available by the glass at Burger and Lobster, Kerridge’s
Bar & Grill at The Corinthia, Market Halls Victoria, as well as Browns and The Doyle Collection hotels. Allowing you plenty of opportunity to celebrate the week!

IN SUSSEX

We will be welcoming visitors to our vineyard and winery, where guests can enjoy guided tours or kick back in the wine garden with a glass of Ridgeview and a beautiful hamper crammed with the region’s finest charcuterie and cheeses.
Click here to book a tour

Exclusive Hotels and Venues
To celebrate the week the group will be pairing our limited release wines with a specially prepared dish. Your nearest Exclusive Hotel is South Lodge
www.exclusive.co.uk/south-lodge

64 Degrees
Will have Ridgeview wines available for the week, by the glass, at a special price.
They will also offer a bespoke pairing of our Blanc de Blancs by-the-glass with their exclusive fish of the day.
www.64degrees.co.uk

Hotel du Vin, Brighton
Will be hosting a Ridgeview Riedel dinner on 30th May. The evening will commence with an aperitif and canapés in their Gallery, followed by dinner with wine glass tasting, where Martin Turner from Riedel will explore the difference a glass can make, and Tom Surgey personally guides you through Ridgeview’s award winning wines. The wine tasting is combined with a four course dinner. More information and tickets are available here:

https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/ridgeview-riedel-english-wine-dinner-tickets-61692177965

Flint House
Celebrate with a glass of Ridgeview on the beautiful ‘Ridgeview Wine Terrace’ at the fantastic new Flint House in central Brighton, the latest venture from the owners of the Gingerman Group Ben & Pamela McKellar.

http://www.flinthousebrighton.com/

Murmur
Will have Ridgeview wines available for the week, by the glass, at a special price.
They will also be offering a special pairing of Ridgeview Blanc de Blancs by-the-glass with Mussels in a white wine sauce.
www.murmur-restaurant.co.uk

Talking about weather; don’t mention the ‘F’ Word!

RIDGEVIEW VINEYARD MANAGER: MATT STRUGNELL

Bud burst has happened, and a green hue starts to appear in the vineyard as this year’s new growth emerges. The vineyard takes on a different appearance at this time of year. There is one thing that is high on the agenda and that is the potential for a spring frost. At this stage, after bud burst, the critical night time temperature is -1 degree Celsius. If the temperature was to get as low as this, we would expect to see some damage occurring.

We use a professional weather forecaster to help us predict whether this is likely to happen. We also have a weather station in the vineyard that enables us to keep an eye on temperatures throughout the night. The weather station will send an alarm via text message at a set temperature. If it looks as if we are in for a frosty night, our tried and tested ‘bougies’ (French for candles) are deployed ready for lighting. We need about 400 of these to offer adequate protection, so we will be watching the temperatures to allow us enough time to get the bougies lit, before it gets too cold.

There are many hours spent waiting; Bougies aren’t cheap and each one lasts about 8 hours, so it isn’t just a case of lighting them on the off-chance. We must make the most economic use of them to ensure that we have enough to last us for the whole of April and May. So, it is a case of staying awake and monitoring and waiting, constantly checking the temperature, watching the forecasts throughout the night. There are many things to consider such as the likelihood of cloud to move into the region. This has happened on a couple of nights already this spring; we may have been anticipating a frost event to occur but having cloud move in can raise the temperature by a few degrees which means that the frost risk has passed. Conversely a night can start cloudy, but we will be looking out for clear spells to develop in which case the temperature can fall to damaging levels.

There is an alternative that we have been trialling, and so far, this year with very positive results. This is the use of electric trace heating cables. The fruiting canes of the vines are tied to these, and they are automatically switched on by a thermostat. We need to properly evaluate the economic and environmental benefits of installing this system further.

Think for us until the end of May if the temperature drops, what you might see as a beautiful spring morning may have meant we were up all night protecting our precious budding vines. The ups and downs of cool climate viticulture!

If you would like to learn more about our dedication to the vines please join one of our tours 

From blending to bottling

 By Simon Roberts, Ridgeview Winemaker

Blending sparkling wine involves a very tough day at the office…. sitting in our tasting room looking out over the vines tasting each tank, carefully adding a little of this batch, a little of the other, until we are happy with the selection. We have a number of growers who we work in partnership with, so where possible we keep each variety, from each vineyard, from each grower separate. Different vineyards will bring different characteristics to the wine, depending on elevation, soil type, exposure and age.

For those who have visited Ridgeview you will have noticed we have lots of small tanks even though we only make wine from three grape varieties: Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier. It would be very easy to have only large tanks, one for each variety. Using small tanks means we can use a little from each vineyard to create a complex and expressive wine.

Once we have decided on the blend, we must physically make the wines. We have several large blending tanks which we transfer into. After blending we have to cold stabilise the wines which involves chilling the it to -4c for 72 hours. We can then very gently filter the wine, leaving it clean, clear and stable.

Finally, we get the chance to put the wine in the bottle and create the fizz. This is done through secondary fermentation in the bottle. The morning of bottling we add some yeast and enough sugar to take the wine to 12% alcohol. Rather than a cork at this point we use a crown cap, similar to a beer bottle cap, to seal the wine, so that none of the CO2 created escapes, trapping the bubbles.

The bottles are taken down into our cellar and stored flat in caverns, naturally keeping the wine at around 15c, which is the most sustainable way of storing. It is here that they slowly go through secondary fermentation and the wait begins…..

If you are interested in learning more about winemaking, why not book one of our tour and tastings