Posted 4 April 2014 by Andrew Gardner
Just recently the Duchess of Cornwall visited Sussex to open the country's first dedicated wine research centre. The facility at Plumpton College, which of course has its own established vineyard, includes a tasting room, laboratories and bottling plant and offers a university-accredited BSc in viticulture and oenology - believed to be the first English-language wine production degree in Europe.
Sussex is a highly appropriate location for such a course since this county does a very good line in wine, both still and sparkling, as proved by the many awards Sussex wine has won. Our chalky South Downs soil is said to be similar to that of the Champagne region in France and the climate is increasingly tending towards that of mainland Europe - well OK, that's apparently the long-term trend, even if this past winter didn't feel quite like that.
We're not allowed to call English fizz Champagne, but Nyetimber set up specifically to take on that market and is one of the UK's largest vineyards. My award for the best name has to be Breaky Bottom; and for the least likely name Rathfinny, which despite sounding like a Scottish whisky producer is an East Sussex estate near Alfriston run by a graduate of the aforementioned Plumpton course.
Others include Ridgeview (at Ditchling Common), Bolney, Sedlescombe - a certified biodynamic producer - Nutbourne, Upperton (near Petworth) and Carr Taylor (near Hastings); apologies if I've left any out, but the point is that choice is everything and many of the vineyards offer tours and tastings, so not only can you find something nice to go with those local-produce meals cooked in your self-catering holiday cottage, but you can also find the perfect way to take the taste of Sussex home in a bottle. They've all got websites with the information you'll need to plan a visit. What a lovely way to wind down on your Sussex holiday!