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Sussex wine producers celebrate after earning PDO status

Winemakers are cracking open the bubbly to celebrate victory in their long-running bid to secure Sussex PDO status for the region.

Producers including Rathfinny, Ridgeview and Bolney embarked upon their quest to turn Sussex into an appellation back in 2015.

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) has now finally recognised Sussex wine as a Protected Designation of Origin (PDO).

It will enter the register on 5 July, 2022, giving Sussex wine the same legal status as Jersey Royal potatoes, Cornish clotted cream and Stilton cheese.

Mark Driver, the former hedge fund manager who set up Rathfinny Wine Estate, said: ‘We can’t wait for the day when you can go into a bar in London, New York, Beijing, or Tokyo and will be asked: would you like a glass of Champagne or a delicious glass of Sussex?’

Still and sparkling wines can only be called ‘Sussex’ if they are grown in the region – which encompasses the counties of West Sussex and East Sussex – and meet a strict set of conditions.

Sussex sparkling wine must be made in the traditional method, predominantly from classic sparkling wine grape varieties – Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier – grown within the region. Arbanne, Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc, Petit Meslier and Pinot Noir Précoce may also be used.

It must have a minimum abv of 11%, a minimum of 6 grams per litre expressed as tartaric acid, a maximum of 0.5 grams per litre expressed as acetic acid and a maximum of 150mg per litre of sulphur dioxide.

Each cuvée must be approved by an accredited organisation – Wine Standards, which is part of the UK government’s Food Standards Agency.

At least 85% of the grapes used to make Sussex sparkling wine must be of the nominated year of any vintage, while single variety wines are required to contain at least 90% of the stated variety.

Sussex still wine must have a minimum abv of 10%, and there are various restrictions on acid, sulphur dioxide, iron and magnesium content. All Sussex still wine will be subject to an organoleptic test by the scheme manager, Campden BRI.

Still wines can be made from Acolon, Auxerrois, Bacchus, Chardonnay, Dornfelder, Gamay, Huxelrebe, Muller Thurgau, Orion, Ortega, Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris, Pinot Meunier, Pinot Noir, Pinot Noir Précoce, Regent, Regner, Reichensteiner, Riesling, Rondo, Roter Veltliner, Schonburger, Siegerrebe, Solaris. The absolute maximum harvest yield is 14.0 tonnes per hectare.

Any producer of wine in Sussex can apply for PDO status. The members will elect a small committee to manage the PDO scheme.

A consultation document will be released to the industry in the coming weeks, allowing producers to have their say in the shaping of the regulations, which will then be proposed to DEFRA.

Simon Thorpe MW, chief executive WineGB, said: ‘The approval of a PDO for wines grown and made in Sussex comes at an important time for English and Welsh wines. There has never been more interest in and demand for our wines and the reputation they have gained in both domestic and international markets is based on high-quality viticulture and winemaking excellence.’

However, not all producers are in favour of the PDO. Chapel Down founder Frazer Thompson previously said: ‘I think the Sussex appellation is a very bad idea. If you have an appellation, you get lazy. If you ask consumers to name a brand of Prosecco, they can’t.

‘You then produce a product that’s only as good as the weakest, cheapest link. The wine only becomes as good as the worst Sussex producer.’


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