English wine tourism at Ridgeview Sparkling Wine Estate
English wine is far more than just a novelty; Ridgeview Wine Estate, located in the village of Ditchling Common, has been producing award-winning sparkling wines that many say rival Champagne. And the growing conditions are not dissimilar – both Champagne, France, and southeastern England share cool climates and chalky (as well as other well-draining) soils.
Wine tourism at Ridgeview in South East England
Even as one grows accustomed to the idea of English wine, English wine tourism feels quite novel. Yet visiting one of the wine estates on the English South East Wine Route is the perfect diversion for visitors – about an hour’s drive from London and even closer to Brighton and also accessible via frequent trains.
Ridgeview Wine Estate welcomes visitors
Ridgeview Wine Estate is open year round for guided tours and tastings. Visitors are welcome Monday –Saturday year round as well as on Sundays in April – October. The modern tasting room has some of the best views you can find of the South Downs.
Pioneering English wine-making family
The winery was started by Christine and Mike Roberts. Fondly remembered, Mike, who passed away in 2014, founded the winery as a hobby when he was semi-retired from a successful computer business. In the late 1980s/early 1990s, people thought the project was “a bit mad.” The couple’s vision is now continued by the next generation of the Roberts family.
The challenge of English viticulture
On the afternoon when I visited, Mardi Roberts conducted the tour, showing us the well-manicured vines which have shoots trained upright to prevent mildew. Mardi showed us some Chardonnay vines and shared that they always flower during Wimbledon. She talked about the challenges facing English grape growers with frost being the number one problem. In 2016 they lit candles “eight nights in a row” to protect the vines from bitter cold.
Ridgeview's fine portfolio of sparkling wines
I was shown the interior of the winery by Ridgeview COO Robin Langton, who told me “We beat Champagne in terms of quality,” referring to English sparkling wine as having more acidity, more freshness, and more fruit. He discussed the range of sparkling wines and explained that they make three entry level wines to “give consumers something approachable.”
The entry-level wines included:
The Chardonnay-dominant 2014 Bloomsbury had fruit-forward flavors, good acidity, delicious flavors of pear and brioche and creamy mousse. It was served at the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee.
Cavendish has a darker fruit profile, as it’s a dominated by the red grapes Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier, in addition to Chardonnay. It had creaminess on the palate and spicy pear and clove notes.
The Fitzrovia Rose is Chardonnay dominant with a delicate salmon color achieved by the addition of red wine. It was a refreshing sparkling rose with pleasing raspberry flavor.
More sophisticated cuvees included:
Their 2013 Blanc de Blanc is a single vineyard wine made of Chardonnay grown right outside the tasting room. The 2006 vintage of this wine won best sparkling wine in the world from Decanter in 2010. It has lovely apple and pear flavors with refreshing acidity.
The Rose de Noir was also excellent, with a lovely pale onion skin color, and spicy red fruit notes.
The 2013 Blanc de Noir was a gorgeous rich and yeasty sparkler with dense apple compote flavors – a real favorite of mine.
Whether coming out for a visit or looking for a top quality bottle for celebrating or enjoying with dinner, Ridgeview Wine Estates is a satisfyingly good choice. Wine tourists who wish to learn about vineyard visits can contact the winery at firstname.lastname@example.org.