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Sussex is the newest star on the international wine stage. The sparkling wines made here are even giving Champagne a run for their money. You’ll find the sparkling white wines here are crisp and clear in flavour, with fruity notes. Representing a truly modern wine region, Sussex vineyards combine modern innovation with the historic winemaking traditions of the past. With many up-and-coming wineries in the region, the English wine industry is truly booming. Read on to discover all about the Sussex wine region.
Located in the south of England, Sussex is split into two administrative counties, East and West, and borders the English Channel. Thanks to the temperate weather from the Gulf Stream and the balancing effect the sea has on the local climate, Sussex has some of the best conditions for grape growing in the country. It’s said the Romans believed the best vineyards must be in sight of the sea, and the winegrowers of Sussex agree. Protected from frost and extreme weather, the vineyards here hugely benefit from the Channel.
The geology of Sussex is also perfect for sparkling wine. Located on the South Downs, there are many south-facing slopes for the vines to soak up the sun on. These hills are made of chalk bedrock, the same chalk vein that runs beneath Champagne. This alkaline soil increases the acidity of the grapes, creating the perfect conditions for secondary fermentation. This is what gives the sparkle to Sussex wines.
The first Sussex vineyards were planted by the Romans, noting the wonderful conditions for wine 2,000 years ago. Up until the 13th century, English wines thrived. However, the rise of Bordeaux wines and the cooling of the global temperature put an end to this, and the vineyards were abandoned for hundreds of years. It was only in the late 1900s when budding English winemakers replanted the ancient vineyards, resulting in a thriving English wine industry.
There are many fantastic vineyards and wine estates to visit when in Sussex, but Ridgeview is definitely worth a visit. Producing world-class wines since 1995, this family-run estate is a sparkling gem in the wine scene. Ridgeview was created with practices and traditions founded on quality and sustainable production, centred around family. Specialists in cool climate viticulture, their sparkling wine is perfectly unique to Sussex.
Their signature wine is the Bloomsbury NV, light golden in colour and boasting citrus aromas. When you take a sip, you’re greeted by citrus, peach and honey notes in a wave of crips delight. The wine also ages beautifully as the Chardonnay matures. Ridgeview recommends pairing this wine with delicate seafood flavours, such as crab and salmon. You’ll have the chance to visit here on day four of our Sparkling Sussex cycling tour, where we recommend a tour and tasting of some of the finest wines in the region.
Stylish and modern, Tinwood Wine Estate is the new kid on the block. Planted just over 15 years ago, the winemaking dream stemmed from a university student discovering the untapped potential of vineyards on the South Downs. This sparked a voyage of viticulture discovery for them as they travelled the world, learning all they could about winemaking. Bringing that knowledge back to Sussex, Tinwood was founded.
Expect delicious sparkling white wines here made from Chardonnay grapes. Their Blanc de blanc in particular is delicious, shining a delicate pale golden colour. One of Tinwood’s driest wines, this one also has a wonderful finish, perfectly refreshing on a summer's day. Expect notes of green apples in this delicious drink. English wines tend to have fruity notes, utilising the wonderful orchards in the country. You’ll have the chance to visit Tinwood on day two of our Sussex beach break cycling holiday as you make your way to Chichester. The sparkling wine is the perfect rest stop as you make your way to the city.
Although Sussex has many key players on the world’s wine stage, it also has some hidden gems. Bluebell Vineyard is one of these. Small and locally driven, the name derives from the bluebell woods that surround the vineyard. Since their first planting in 2005, they’ve perfected their wines, producing some stellar English still and sparkling wines. Using traditional methods of production and creating only vintage wines, Bluebell is a love letter to the vines. This makes every bottle unique.
One of the most unique aspects of Bluebell wines is the earthiness and smokey notes that greet you upon the first sip. Breaking from the fruitier tradition of Sussex sparkling wines, look out for hazelnut flavours that compliment the typical apple notes in their Blanc de blancs. Likewise, their classic Cuvée is flavoured with spices that dance with the light floral notes perfectly. Mixing the smokey and delicate, Bluebell stands out. You can visit here on our single centre tour. staying at Ockenden Manor.
For more recommendations about wine regions cycling holidays, give us a call on 020 3918 7841, or alternatively, view our Sussex cycling holidays here.
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