Sussex now has some fabulous wine producers, winning international awards and acclaim time after time.
The vineyard area is increasing year by year, if not month by month and visiting a winery for a taste or two, is an experience not to be missed.
But if you are the adventurous type, pack a case and cross the border to Kent, to discover another wonderful vineyard area of the south of England. A group of producers has got together recently to promote these interesting wines, called The Wine Garden of England and quality across the board is on a par with our Sussex producers.
On your voyage of discovery beyond the borders of Sussex, one of the best places to stay is the latest addition to the ‘Pig’ hotel group.
The Pig at Bridge Place near Canterbury opened at the beginning of May this year and is number six in the group. Right from the start, it has formed a close association with the Wine Garden of England and serves a great selection of their wines, together with some wines from other parts of southern England.
One of the cornerstones of the Pig Hotels is the restaurant and the obsessive commitment to home grown and local produce.
Anyone who has an allotment knows the value of this philosophy. The walled kitchen garden at The Pig at Bridge Place is a timeless oasis of vegetable reverence. A place to sit and contemplate the world, and to forget what is happening to the global environment.
Row upon row of fresh vege, a henhouse, quail pen, glasshouse and mushroom shed, complete the picture.
A close working relationship between the head gardener and the chef ensures a creative menu of fresh tasty dishes.
Only a two-hour drive or less from Sussex, this has to be a prime place to visit some of the 50 vineyards of the county, with Simpson’s Estate only a stone’s throw from the hotel.
Simpson’s is undoubtedly one of the up-and-coming wine estates of England, producing not only first-class fizz, but an unusually good range of still wines.
Amusing, since the original philosophy was to only make sparkling and never venture into the trickier (for this country) area of still wines.
Simpson’s produce one of the best still English Chardonnays that I have ever tasted – in fact two. The latest of these is Gravel Castle Chardonnay 2018 and is amazingly Chablis-esque.
Even more unusual for England – or anywhere, come to that – is their Derringstone Pinot Meunier 2018.
Created exclusively from estate grown black Pinot Meunier grapes, this intriguing and truly unique ‘blanc de noirs’ was carefully vinified as a white wine. Absolutely delicious. Full, creamy palate, with balanced acidity. Red fruit flavours and aromas, poached pear and a savoury finish.
The wine list at the Pig at Bridge Place has no less than 26 different English wines, 16 of which are sparkling, from a range of 11 different producers. A great opportunity to try one or two of these very special wines. Or stay for a week and try them all!
Richard Esling BSc DipWSET is an experienced wine consultant, agent, writer and educator. An erstwhile wine importer, he runs a wine agency and consultancy company called WineWyse, is founder and principal of the Sussex Wine Academy, chairman of Arundel Wine Society and is an International Wine Judge. Follow him on Twitter @richardwje.