Corks popping as our Sussex fizz goes global
You can forget ketches bobbing around Chichester Harbour and sheep baa-ing on the green sweep of the South Downs.
It’s thanks to a wonderful guy called Dermot Sugrue from Ireland and a host of pioneering winemakers, that avant-garde West Sussex and its luscious chalky soil will soon be the toast of every corner of the planet.
Sorry Champagne, you can bleat as loudly as Goodwood’s frolicking lambs but it’s the fizz that’s produced around Chichester that’s now the Champ.
And it’s going global.
Without getting a single cheesy foot anywhere the pressing of grapes named Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Pinot Meunier, the small Sussex vineyards have bagged one award after another.
Medals, rosettes, and cups – their trophy cabinets are bulging like their sun-ripened vines.
Ashling Park’s Blanc de Blancs, Wiston’s Rose, Roebuck’s Classic Cuvee, Upperton’s Nebula, Blackdown Ridge’s Primordia, Tinwood’s Brut, the amazing Nyetimber, and Sugrue’s own enigmatically branded ‘The Trouble with Dreams’ are part of a long list of local triumphs.
Many of these vineyards don’t just produce beautiful wine - they are beautiful places too often offering tastings and fine dining and providing a hugely warm welcome to visitors.
The exceptional Ashling Park at Funtington owned by husband and wife team Gail and Matthew Gardner is one such example.
The brand new tasting rooms house an experience room, a shop, a wonderful restaurant and even a gin school.
The estate restaurant has a balcony with front row seats overlooking the vine canopy, utterly blissful on a warm evening.
Another wine oasis is the stunning Tinwood owned by Art Tukker - and he is perfectly placed to answer the question whether this is going to be a vintage year.
“That’s a really good question. It’s still a little bit too early in the season to tell. So far the season has been good. We have got through some cold weather but this sunshine that is arriving now is at a perfect time. “But come back in September and I will tell you exactly how good it is going to be.”