English Wine Week takes place from 17-23 June this year. Nick Mosley reveals how you can join this celebration of home-grown wines at vineyards in Sussex.
The south east of England is without doubt the home to the UK wine industry with the perfect growing terroir of the South Downs in West Sussex, East Sussex and Kent home to hundreds of vineyards growing primarily chardonnay, pinot noir and pinot meunier grapes that are perfect for traditional method sparkling wine production.
The latest statistics from Wine GB – the national wine marketing organisation for the UK – reveal that the industry is going from strength-to-strength. As of 2022, there were 900 vineyards growing grapes across the country with 200 wineries turning those grapes into bottles of wine. Plantingh hectarage has more than doubled in just eight years and more than quadrupled since 2000, with around 3,800 hectares under vine. It’s estimated that about nine million bottles of UK grown and produced wines were sold in 2021 alone.
Whilst many vineyards offer daily cellar door tastings and regular tours, the period including and around English Wine Week gives consumers the opportunity to dig a little deeper under-the-skin of the industry with one-off events, food pairing dinners and meet-the-maker events.
Rathfinny Estate near Alfriston – incidentally one of the largest single estates in Europe – will be hosting food and wine pairing tours from Monday 19 - Thursday 22 June. Following a walking tour of the vines, guests will visit the winery to discover how grapes are turned into wine before enjoying a tasting of their Sussex sparkling wine with complimentary local food pairings. Tickets are £37.55 and available in advance from www.rathfinnyestate.com
Bolney Estate – one of the UK’s oldest vineyards – will be offering ‘Dine in the Vines’ from Friday 23 – Sunday 25 June. Luxurious ‘geo-domes’ will be popping up amongst the vines where guests can enjoy a Sparkling Afternoon Tea during the day or in the evening a three course Sussex produce supper matched with Bolney’s award-winning Pinot Noir 2019 and Pinot Gris. More details can be found at www.bolneywineestate.com
Wiston Wine Estate near Washington rounds off English Wine Week with their ‘Midsummer Merriment’ evening on Friday 24 June. Tickets are just £10 and including a tasting of Wiston’s still and sparkling rosé wines, with a selection of small plates and snacks created by their Chalk restaurant team available to buy. Advance tickets are available at www.wistonestate.com.
Whether you visit a vineyard – or two! – during English Wine Week or simply buy a bottle from your local vintner or supermarket, June is the perfect month to raise a glass to the best of Sussex.