Call for Sussex wines to have protected status

Richard Jones, Environmental Operations Manager at the Rathfinny Wine Estate. Picture Gareth Fuller/PA Wire
Richard Jones, Environmental Operations Manager at the Rathfinny Wine Estate. Picture Gareth Fuller/PA Wire
  • Bid to join league of Champagne and Bordeaux with PDO application
  • Stilton cheese and Melton Mowbray pies in illustrious ranks
  • ‘We are producing some world class products here in Sussex’

An Alfriston vineyard is spearheading a bid for wines produced in Sussex to have protected status.

It would mean the product joining the illustrious ranks of some of the UK’s most famous food and drink such as Stilton cheese and Melton Mowbray pies.

Wine producers in the county aim to apply in April for Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) status across the EuropeanUnion, putting them in the same league as Champagne and Bordeaux.

The reputation of Sussex wines has grown immeasurably in recent years, thanks partly to the county’s warm, dry weather and the same chalky subsoil found in the Champagne region of France.

East and West Sussex vineyards produce sparkling wines that regularly beat Champagnes in international competitions and blind taste tests.

Now the county’s wine producers are hoping that soon people worldwide will be able to walk into a bar and ask: “Can I have a glass of Sussex, please?”

Jamie Everett, the Chief Operating Officer of the Rathfinny Wine Estate in Alfriston, is leading the bid to gain PDO status for Sussex’s wines, and hopes an application will go in next month. He said, “We hope that in time people in a bar in Hong Kong will ask the bartender for a glass of Sussex. I think it’s a great name and a lovely old county.

“Sussex is one of the driest and warmest counties in the country, and we have the South Downs National Park here, which is a big influence.

“Part of the application to gain PDO status really is a natural progression. We are producing some world class products in Sussex and it’s a very exciting time to be in the industry.”

The move towards PDO status in Sussex follows research last year showing nearly a 50 per cent increase in new wine producers in the UK.

The total grew to a 20-year high of more than 130, and follows more demand for locally-produced wine, as well as other food and drink products.

PDO status is open to products produced, processed and prepared within a particular area, and with features and characteristics due to the area. Others on the PDO list include West Country Farmhouse Cheddar, Cornish Clotted Cream, Orkney Beef and Lamb and Jersey Royal Potatoes.

It’s not the first time a product from Sussex has sought protected status. Thomas Smith’s Trug Shop, at Herstmonceux, joined a quest to extend the geographical indication, which identifies goods as originating from a certain country or locality which is integral to its authenticity, to non-agricultural products.