Of all the winemaking regions in England, Sussex is perhaps the most significant as it has lead the rebirth of the English wine industry. With a strong focus on sparkling wine production, Sussex has paved the way for high-quality wines that are often compared, rather favourably, to that slightly more well-known region across the Channel called Champagne. Sussex is home to the South Downs, lots of expansive, beautiful English countryside and plenty to do both in and outside the many vineyards. With a stunning coastline including Brighton, Hastings and the bright chalky cliffs of the Seven Sisters, you will never be short of places of interest.
It was in the mid-nineties that a then-unknown producer called Nyetimber led the country to an international wine breakthrough. The winemaker’s inaugural release and one of the very first English sparkling wines, the Nyetimber Blanc de Blancs 1992, went on to be the first English wine to win an international Gold medal.
Sussex is now home to many of the country’s most well-known and long-established wine producers. These include Bolney Wine Estate, Ridgeview and Breaky Bottom. With over 50 vineyards now planted in Sussex, the calibre and scale of new vineyard plantings and wineries has increased dramatically in the last decade. Two of the most notable are Wiston Estate, headed by charismatic winemaker Dermot Sugrue, and the much talked about Rathfinny Wine Estate in Alfriston.
New producers are popping up on the map all the time, enabling Sussex to be perhaps the best equipped English wine region for tourism thanks to pockets of vineyards dotted around the county.
As with the majority of the South of England, you can expect the classic trio of Champagne grape varietals; Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier, to dominate the acreage. However, such is the scope of winemaking in Sussex that you will find producers that put an equal or greater focus on still wines. Firstly there’s the ever-present Bacchus, in addition to Pinot Gris, Seyval Blanc, Dornfelder and many other lesser-known varietals of Germanic origin.
Here’s our guide to our best wine and food experience, wineries to visit and hotels in Sussex...Read less
Many of the wineries are positioned around and in between Brighton, Horsham and Haywards Heath. All of which are accessible from London by approx. one-hour direct trains. For international travellers, Gatwick Airport lands you at the top of the West Sussex, with great links by both road and train.
England uses the British pound (sterling (£).
England can have long, cold winters, but these can be great for cosying up in very quaint English hotels and B7Bs, tasting wine and having cosy dinners by the fire. If you want to get out to see the vineyards, the best time is March to October. Harvest happens in October, so you’’ have plenty to see!
Food and folk festival, Chichester
English wine week: events all over the country
Magnificent Motors, Eastbourne: vintage and classic car motoring event
Brighton Festival: Take in all the arts as well as wine tasting at the Brighton festival
Brighton and Hove food and drink festival: All the food and all the drink. By the sea. What’s not to love?
While there are pockets of English vineyards spread all across the county, one trio that can comfortably be arranged in a day is Bluebell Vineyard, Ridgeview and The Bolney Estate. Each no more than 10-12 miles away from each other and open for visitors all week (only Bluebell is closed on Sunday), you can create a fantastic day out and capture the essence of three very different producers. You can break with a lunch at Bolney’s superb 16 Acre café, opt for a local Hamper for two at Ridgeview or even bring your own picnic and absorb the surroundings of the vines and countryside and Bluebell.
Whatever your preferences, timescale or budget, a unique bespoke tour can be created by the travel experts here at Winerist, for you. Simply email email@example.com or speak to Catherine or Céline on 020 7096 1006.