A £2m laboratory that is intended to put southern England on the world map for wine research has been opened by the Duchess of Cornwall.
The Duchess of Cornwall (right) is shown the new wine research labs at Plumpton, Sussex. Image: Office of Prince of Wales
The Rathfinny Research Winery, named after its sponsor, Rathfinny Estate, was officially opened today (26 March) in Plumpton, Sussex.
Its inauguration coincides with Plumpton College announcing that it will offer the UK’s first MSc in viticulture and oenology from September this year.
Both developments are seen as a significant step forward for England’s fledgling wine industry. English wine still raises a wry smile in some of the world’s more established wine producing nations, but proponents argue it is increasingly gaining recognition.
English sparkling is one of the reception wines regularly served by the UK Government at official events, and several UK retailers have reported strong sales increases in the past couple of years.
‘England is now firmly placed as a credible, innovative and exciting wine producing region,’ said Plumpton College principal Des Lambert.
‘The new centre is essential for the industry to support,’ said Emma Rice, winemaker at Hattingley Valley, who studied at Plumpton College and is also a small donor to the new research centre. ‘We experience a unique set of viticultural challenges in the UK, namely variability in terms of climate, and therefore yield,’ she told Decanter.com after attending the opening ceremony.
Hattingley is already researching ways to better combat frost, wind and variable yields in general in England, and Plumpton students may be able to help with that.
Julia Trustram Eve, marketing director for trade body English Wine Producers, told Decanter.com, ‘The wine research centre is a great development in the industry and secures Plumpton as a major player on the world stage for wine research.’
Rathfinny owners Mark and Sarah Driver added, ‘Every new and exciting industry needs a strong research institution behind it.’ They highlighted UC Davis in California as an example.
Written by Chris Mercer