There's only one way to find the wines that are right for you and that's to taste them. With so many on our doorstep here in Chiddingfold, there really is no excuse!
English sparkling wine has become very popular throughout the world in recent years. The terroir (soil and growing conditions) in the vineyards across the South Downs and Sussex Weald is similar to that of the Champagne region.
Here is a selection of the most local, in no particular order, that are definitely worth a visit. There are plenty more to choose from locally in Surrey, Sussex and Hampshire if you are happy to drive just a little further.
Greyfriars Vineyard in Puttenham, Surrey, was originally planted in 1989 and has been producing great grapes and wines for years. Expanded more recently, it now produces award-winning English sparkling wine and boasts a state of the art winery, cellar and tasting room. Head along to the vineyard to hear its story, taste the wines and see how the family vineyard do things a little differently.
The Hog’s back is a prominent chalk ridge, part of the North Downs, running east to west from Guildford to Farnham. The A31 passes along the top of the entire ridge and Greyfriars Vineyard lies on the southern face of the Hog’s back.
The Greyfriars vineyard was originally planted in 1989. After several years of experimentation the one and a half acre plot was planted with predominantly Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grape varieties. In the late eighties Greyfriars was one of the first vineyards in England to plant these traditional Champagne grape varieties. After a number of years of producing both still and sparkling wines, Greyfriars has most recently focused on making high quality sparkling wines. Our sparkling wines are made using the ‘traditional method’ – a sparkling wine making technique which utilises a secondary fermentation and subsequent ageing in the bottle in the cellar for at least three years before it is ready to drink. This requires a lot more hard work and patience than producing still wines!
Their aim is not just to produce a Champagne ‘copy’ but rather to create a small range of great sparkling wines which reflects the unique geology, soil conditions, climate and heritage of the wonderful landscape of the Surrey North Downs.
I had the pleasure of sampling Nyetimber at a friends house a couple of weeks ago and it is quite simply stunning.
Ever since the very first vines were planted at their vineyard in West Chiltington, West Sussex, Nyetimber has had a single aim:
"To make the finest English sparkling wine there is".
With geography, climate, passion and determination on their side, they knew they could rival the best in the world, including champagne.
The Nyetimber estate counts three major landmarks in its history. Its earliest beginnings saw it first recorded in the Domesday Book in 1086. Then there was the planting of the first vines, almost exactly 900 years later. Most recently, there was the decision in 2006 that Nyetimber wines deserved an audience on the world stage.
Southern England is perfect for the production of sparkling wine. The chalk seam that supplies Champagne grapes with the perfect green sand and chalky soil to flourish is the very same that runs under the lee of the South Downs. This is where, sheltered from the coastal winds, Nyetimber vines are planted across eight separate sites.
The climate here allows for the slow ripening of thier grapes, allowing them to achieve the optimum level of acidity for the wine, as well as the complexity and finesse they strive for.
This September, they invite you to join them in the beautiful West Sussex countryside for a very special visit to the Nyetimber Estate.
On 17th – 18th September 2016, experience an exclusive tour of their vineyards and a tutored tasting of Nyetimber sparkling wine. Visit the Nyetimber website to book.
Blackdown Ridge Estate in Haslemere sits at the highest point in the Sussex Weald, enjoying extraordinary views over the South Downs National Park. They have planted vines to create fine English wines, taking advantage of the superb location and conditions.
The wines of Blackdown Ridge Estate are the result of the vision of owner, Professor Martin Cook, who has lived on the estate for 20 years. A passionate wine-lover, Martin was inspired to create his vineyard when an Italian family friend and winemaker, Antonio, suggested that the beautiful south-facing slopes of Blackdown would be perfect for growing vines.
Antonio’s words inspired Martin to realise the potential of the estate and the first vines were planted in 2010. The soil of the Sussex Weald shares much with the terroir of the Champagne region of France, and this influenced our plantings of the classic sparkling wine varietals: Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier and Chardonnay.
Plans for expansion of the Winery in 2017 will allow for the production of Blackdown Ridge Estate English Sparkling wines.
Albury Organic Vineyard is situated on the southern slopes of the North Downs in the beautiful Surrey Hills, just outside Guildford. The vines are the traditional Champagne varietals of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier, as well as some Seyval and Pinot Gris.
They produce English wine of the highest quality; a still rosé and quality sparkling wines, the first of which was released for sale in May 2015.
They are committed to producing organic fruit without the use of chemicals such as herbicides and fungicides. Whilst copper and sulphur are permitted in organic vineyards they minimise their use. They also use compost teas, which improve the biology of the soil and biodynamic preparations. they believe that this approach, encouraging the natural biology of the land, will produce premium fruit and therefore great wine.
This year they are excited to announce four prestigious international awards for their Albury Estate sparkling wines!
The Denbies Estate, based in Dorking, Surrey, has been family owned and run since 1984. Denbies vineyard was planted in 1986, and since then has become one of the largest wine producers in the UK. Denbies core business is agriculture and they are pleased to be able to offer visitors an insight into wine production in the UK. Denbies wine now competes on an international level, including multiple gold awards for sparkling wine production, the first ever gold for an English rose wine and most recently an international gold for Denbies Noble Harvest Dessert wine.
Upperton is set in over 40 acres of verdant, rolling English countryside, in the heart of the South Downs. This unique setting provides a very special combination of ingredients, perfect for growing the finest vines.
Andy Rogers planted Upperton in 2005 with 800 trial vines, comprising three varieties initially intended for still wine production: Rondo, an early ripening Pinot Noir known as Pinot Noir Précoce and Chardonnay.Through chance encounters and numerous vineyard visits it became clear to Andy that he should produce high quality English sparkling wine. Major plantings were undertaken in 2006, 2008 and 2010. There are currently 32,000 vines planted at Upperton.
Experience Upperton for yourself - What better way to experience the Upperton story than by joining us for a tour of the estate. Vineyard founder, Andy Rogers, will guide you through the setup, management and ethos of the vineyard. There will be lots of opportunity to ask questions about grape growing and wine-making, while enjoying the beautiful surroundings. Visit their website to book.
It is hard to believe that Painshill Park is less than a mile off the A3 at Cobham and only just inside the M25. It is a country estate of just the right size, by which I mean that it looks expansive but can quite easily be explored in its entirety in a couple of hours.
The vineyard is tiny by commercial standards, on a south-facing slope overlooking the lake. Sparkling Wine is made by the respected Bluebell Vineyard Estate and is available only from the Painshill shop.
As a standalone vineyard, it would perhaps not make an exciting visit, but the context of stunning gardens, where every view is a picture postcard and the astonishing fact that it is all run by a charity with volunteer workers makes it truly a pleasure.
Vines were first planted at Nutbourne, near Pulborough, West Sussex, in 1980 by one of the early pioneers of wine grape growing in this country. Since 1991 it has been owned and managed by the Gladwin family and since then the vineyard has developed and expanded as English wines have come of age. Nutbourne is now considered one of the premier wine producers in the South East, offering a range of estate grown still and sparkling wines which can compete anywhere in the world.
The “Terroir” at Nutbourne is a unique and ideal wine growing environment – a warm microclimate protected by the South Downs, gentle south-facing slopes and the same fertile green sand soil as the Champagne region in France. There are 26 acres under vine.
The vineyards are tended throughout the year, each vine pruned by hand throughout the winter and then lovingly trained, trimmed and nurtured during the summer months. The landscape is also carefully looked after with areas preserved for the habitat of wild flowers, insects and wildlife to balance the cultivation.
We grow 7 different types of grape: – the Riesling style: – Bacchus, Huxelrebe, Reichensteiner and Schönburger, Pinot Noir for our red, sparkling blends and rosé, and both Chardonnay and Pinot Blanc.
Stopham Vineyard specialises in white wine production from their hand-harvested grapes grown in our beautiful vineyard next to the River Arun in The South Downs National Park, West Sussex. For Vineyard and Winery tasting tours with the winemaker visit their website.
The winery is in a beautiful converted Grade II listed Victorian barn at the top of the vineyard.
As part of a tour the winemaker talks you through a wine tasting of all their wines. This includes the wine that was selected for the Queen's party on the Royal Barge at her Diamond Jubilee celebrations and is served at top restaurants, such as Raymond Blanc's Le Manoir aux Quat' Saisons.
Ridgeview was founded in 1994 by Mike and Chris Roberts and is dedicated to creating world class sparkling wines in the South Downs. Their vineyards specialise in growing classic grape varieties to make the highest quality bottle fermented sparkling wines. The world class status of their wines is reflected by the number of national and international awards they have received since the release of our first wines from the 1996 vintage.
The sole focus at Ridgeview is the production of the highest quality sparkling wine so they are continuously investing in state of the art specialist equipment. They perform all aspects of the production on site from pressing the grapes in our Coquard PAI & Willmes SIGMA 8 presses to bottling, riddling, disgorging and labelling the wines on their fully automated production lines.