Sustainable wine – Pruning for the future

In conversation with Matt Strugnell, Ridgeview Vineyard Manager

It takes sustainable vines to make sustainable wines. And as a certified B Corp and founder member of Sustainable Wines of Great Britain, we’re 100% serious in our commitment to finding the most ethical and eco conscious ways to run our vineyards.

At Ridgeview, Matt Strugnell is the man in charge of that mission. A key member of the team since 2002, Matt was recently appointed Chair of the Viticulture Working Group at Wine GB. His expertise in vineyard sustainability has recently been expanded by working with Vine Master Pruner Marco Simonit to refine our pruning methods. We caught up with Matt to learn more about this latest step in our sustainable wine journey…

A future rooted in heritage

It’s almost three decades since we planted our first vines on the Ridgeview estate. They now root deep into the Sussex soil, their thick gnarled trunks holding cherished memories of every vintage they’ve produced. 

These are vines worth preserving. They’re some of England’s oldest and their heritage is something we’re enormously proud of. Allied to this, our sustainable wine ethos makes their longevity a practical concern for us.

“Long-term. Longevity. Sustained. That’s what we’re trying to achieve. A sustainable vineyard is one that will keep doing the business for many years.”

Sustainable wines the Simonit way

There are many ways to manage a vineyard sustainably, from enhancing microbial life in the soil to protecting the natural habitat above ground. Traditionally there has been less focus on how vines can be managed to stay healthy and productive for longer. This is the big change Marco Simonit is bringing to sustainable wine growers around the world, including Ridgeview.

“I think if we carried on doing what we’d been doing in the past, maybe now we’d be replanting. It’s really difficult. I was agonising over what for the best… And then lo and behold Marco comes along.”

The importance of pruning

Pruning is necessary to control a vine’s vigour to maximise its fruit production. But how we prune influences a number of factors: how strongly the vine grows, how much fruit is produced, how susceptible the plant is to disease, how well it over-winters and ultimately, how long it lives. 

“Pruning is so key. It’s the foundation of everything we’re doing in the vineyard at the moment. Our priority is building structure, building healthy wood, which will give us better quality fruiting canes in the future.” 

Pruning in tune with nature

Prune too hard and you risk killing off living parts of the trunk, restricting sap flow and inviting disease. By contrast, the Simonit method advocates pruning gently, in balance with the vine’s natural tendencies. This means respecting sap flow, reducing cutting wounds and encouraging protective wood by allowing the vine to ‘branch’ more naturally than other pruning methods advocate.

“It’s understanding how vines behave and how they respond when you prune them. They’re not like fruit trees, which you can prune quite close. With vines you need to respect the fact that they do die back and that can cause problems.”

Follow the flow, feel the force

The method begins by literally embracing nature – placing hands on the trunk and feeling the natural contours of its growth to decide where to make pruning cuts. “Marco talks about following the flow. I call it feeling the force”, says Matt. By carefully following this method year on year, he expects to see some remarkable benefits for our happy, healthy vines.

“More healthy wood, better winter resilience, better shoot growth, more homogenous fruit production. There’s even been a demonstration that it can improve frost resistance.”

Improvements everywhere

These are benefits we’re looking forward to witnessing across our vineyard holdings. This includes the six hectares we’re now managing at nearby South Lodge, in partnership with Exclusive Hotels, and the site we’ve recently taken over at Ansty in West Sussex.

The former – a beautiful south-facing slope, perfect for English viticulture – is newly planted, so the vines are still a few years from benefiting from gentle pruning. However our six hectares of nine-year-old Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Meunier vines at Ansty have already fallen under the Simonit spell. Long may it continue.

“Our vines are over 28 years old and they’ve played an important part in the English wine story. If we look after all the other bits and keep applying this method, there’s no reason why we can’t keep these vines going far beyond my retirement.”


Get to the heart of England’s finest sparkling wine with Ridgeview’s award-winning wine club, OurView. Ridgeview wine club membership unlocks a host of exclusive benefits – from generous member pricing and access to rare archive wines to secret wine club events and so much more. Step into a whole new world of celebration as an OurView wine club member.

Life is for celebrating

Become a member


Get the latest special offers, news and events.

Welcome to Ridgeview

You must be of legal drinking age to enter this site.

Please enter your date of birth below

Consent Preferences