Skip to Content (Press Enter)

English / Français

Ridgeview Vineyard
About an hour south of London, the rolling hills of South Downs are a patchwork of green fields, brilliant poppies and intermittent packs of cyclists. At Ridgeview Winery, a compact vineyard in Ditchling, general manager Tamara Roberts walks us through row upon row of chardonnay grapes, the star ingredient in their Blanc de Blancs Brut.

Ridgeview VineyardPhoto courtesy of Ridgeview Vineyard

“We are a real family business,” says Roberts as her mother passes by with a hose, casually watering the grounds. Despite its small team, which includes six family members spanning two generations and a loyal staff of about the same size, Ridgeview produces a lengthy list of sparklers, most of which are named after London’s most prestigious neighbourhoods. During our tasting, we sip the range, from the 2010 Knightsbridge, a Blanc de Noir with robust fruit and teeny bubbles, to our favourite, the Fitzrovia, a salmon-coloured rosé that’s sweet enough to drink with breakfast.

Bring back the Ridgeview Grosvenor Blanc de Blancs. After winning the Decanter international trophy for best sparkling wine (including champagne) in 2010, this fruity, balanced bubbly helped establish the region’s winemaking reputation.

Sedlescombe Organic VineyardPhoto courtesy of Sedlescombe

Sedlescombe Organic Vineyard
From Ditchling, we head east toward the seaside town of Hastings, where small restaurants line the beach and families queue for local brown crab and fish and chips. Along a quiet tree-lined street is Sedlescombe, one of the oldest organic vineyards in England (its first grapes were planted in 1979).

After we’re welcomed into the barn, which acts as the tasting room/gift shop, the eight-year-old granddaughter of founder and winemaker Roy Cook hands me a glass of their cloudy Premier Brut. It’s refreshing, light and tastes like whipped tropical mousse.
 
Cook explains that the wine’s dry tropical tang comes from the rare Seyval blanc and Johanniter grapes, small batches of which are planted at the back of the property.

Behind the barn sits a homegrown grass tennis court, where Cook practises his second passion in life. With Andy Murray’s recent Wimbledon victory in mind, I ask the winemaker what he drank to celebrate the historic win.

“Sedlescombe 2010 Premier Brut, of course! It’s our first sparkling wine to win an international award,” he answers. “It won Silver at the International Organic Wine Awards.”

Bring back the Sedlescombe 2010 Premier Brut. The first sparkling wine to be produced in England to the exacting standards of the Biodynamic Agricultural Association (BDA), it undergoes a secondary fermentation of at least 18 months to add a toasty flavour to the wine’s fruit notes.

Chapel Down WineryPhoto courtesy of Chapel Down

Chapel Down Winery
To get to Tenterden, the home of Chapel Down, we drive 25 minutes into Kent. The winery’s main structure is bustling, likely because it acts as a tasting bar, a gift shop, a restaurant and a fully stocked cheese counter. We sit down for lunch at the Swan, which is perched above the vines. The kitchen produces food that complements Chapel Down’s “Best of British” wine ethos (think baked Sussex Brie parcel and the crab, oyster and fennel salad). We taste all eight of the vineyard’s sparklers, including a 2008 bottle of its Three Graces (pinot noir, chardonnay and pinot meunier), which Chapel-Downer Fergus Elias (he was born at the winery and has worked there since he was seven) stops by to appreciate. “It’s a gorgeous fizz with lovely citrus and apple flavours and nice brioche notes,” he says. “Bubbles that would make Sir Winston Churchill proud.”

Bring back the Chapel Down Rosé Brut. A gold medal winner at the 2013 Decanter World Wine Awards, this fresh wine boasts notes of strawberry, raspberry and cream, with well-balanced acidity.

Where to stay: Hotel du Vin Brighton
Built by a wine merchant over 400 years ago, this Tudor Revival inn has 49 rooms and is a block away from the sea and Brighton’s nightlife. Look for English sparklers like Ridgeview Grosvenor Blanc de Blancs on the Bistro’s menu.

Tags

BRIGHTON     ENGLAND     ONAIR     VINEYARDS     WEB EXCLUSIVES     WINE     WINERIES    

Getting There

Air Canada offers the most service between Canada and London with nonstop service from Edmonton, Halifax, Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto and Vancouver.

Please leave a comment

HTML tags will be removed
Web addresses starting with http:// will be converted to links