At Ridgeview Wine Estate Get Expert Insight Into English Sparkling Wine
The Foodie Travel Guide
From Computers to Vines – the Story of an English Wine Pioneer
Ridgeview Wine Estate in Sussex is just 80 miles from the Champagne region of northern France. Back in 1994, the late Mike Roberts, an IT entrepreneur who had a dream of one day retiring to France, planted his first vines here. It was a move that was considered novel at the time. As a true English wine pioneer, well loved and respected in the industry, Mike successfully steered Ridgeview to become one of the leading producers of English sparkling wine. Ridgeview has since been awarded over 250 medals and now exports its wines to over thirteen countries.
Go Wine Tasting in the South Downs
For wine lovers, Ridgeview’s Sussex Wine Estate is easily accessible from London or Brighton so it makes a great destination for a wine tasting day out. Its vineyard, near Ditchling, is located in beautiful countryside with views of the South Downs Ridge hence its name. With more vineyards nearby and picturesque villages, Michelin-starred restaurants and gastro pubs in plentiful supply, the area has great appeal as a gourmet getaway.
When you visit, you’ll see that the original vineyard covers 17 acres. This site was chosen due to its south-facing, free draining, mainly frost-free conditions coupled with long hours of sunshine. Today though, demand for Ridgeview’s wine is so great, they work with partner vineyards across the South Downs National Park to increase annual production from 20,000 to over 250,000 bottles of English sparkling wine a year.
Drop in for a Wine Tasting or Book a Specialist Vineyard Tour
Despite this huge growth, Ridgeview is still a family firm at heart so it’s a friendly and inviting vineyard to drop in and visit for a wine tasting. Book a vineyard and winery tour and you may be guided by a family member who will describe working life on the vineyard throughout the year. Learn how they prune the vines to retain maximum energy and how the weather is carefully monitored via a weather station that pings text messages. Cool weather in the spring can be a particular problem. If the frost starts to bite, they bring out paraffin wax candles to raise the temperature. In vineyard-speak, this is referred to as ‘lighting the bougies’. It must be a pretty sight like the memorable scene from the film The English Patient when Juliette Binoche walks into a garden twinkling with lights.
Visit the Winery and Cellar
What’s clear is the family’s commitment to quality at every stage of the wine making process. Grapes are all handpicked and placed in small crates to ensure they don’t get bruised. Once inside the winery, they are gently crushed in a giant grape press using sliding stainless steel plates, a process that produces a good quality juice. Walking past the impressive and expensive high tech machinery and fermenting tanks, imported from France and Germany, the different stages of the sparkling wine making process are all explained to you. You’ll also be taken downstairs to their purpose-built cellar where 250,000 bottles are stored in perfect conditions for secondary fermentation.
In their smart and contemporary tasting room overlooking the vineyard, the best part begins. You will be taken through a tutored tasting of six different sparkling wines all created using different blends of red and white grapes. There are suggestions for food pairings and if you’re the unlucky driver, you can buy bottles to take home.
- Bloomsbury is Chardonnay dominant. Fresh and fruity with floral notes, it goes well with seafood and salmon and is often chosen for weddings.
- Cavendish is more like traditional Champagne as it has a higher percentage of red wine grapes. With its deeper colour and smell of strawberries, it’s often chosen as a Christmas wine and complements meat dishes.
- Try Fitzrovia Rosé and you’ll be in good wine tasting company. It was served to President Obama at a state banquet held at Buckingham Palace in 2002.
- Ridgeview’s single estate Blanc de Blancs is a particular favourite of the Queen. It was served for China’s President Xi Jinping at a state banquet in 2009. Its delicate pale colour, refreshing palate of citrus and tropical fruits combined with brioche and honey aromas, so lifts the spirits that it would be a great shame to go home without a bottle.
- Ridgeview Wine Estate doesn’t have a café or restaurant. For a delicious lunch visit The Bull pub in nearby Ditchling
- Spend the weekend wine tasting in the area. Bolney Wine Estate and Bluebell vineyard are both located nearby
- To find out more about state banquets and royal dining, visit Windsor Castle and take the Great Kitchen Tour
- To taste English sparkling wines in London, go for a drink in the Coral Room bar at the Bloomsbury Hotel. It has an excellent selection selection
Ockenden Manor Hotel & Spa in Cuckfield – A Tudor manor house with Michelin dining, traditional interiors and a contemporary spa.
Gravetye Manor in East Grinstead – A luxury hotel in an Elizabethan Manor with large grounds and very beautiful gardens. Also a great place to go for Afternoon Tea.
Mr Hendricks says, “They tell me that Guide Dogs are welcome at the vineyard”.
How to Find Ridgeview Wine Estate
Ridgeview Wine Estate, Fragbarrow Lane, Ditchling Common, Sussex, BN6 8TP
Ridgeview Wine Estate
Tasting Tour of Ridgeview Wine Estate
- 2-hour behind the scenes tour of the vineyard
- Learn about the history of Ridgeview and the wine-making process
- Taste award-winning English sparkling wine
- Experience includes a bottle of sparkling wine and box of Ridgeview truffles
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