The Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) has approved the registration of ‘Sussex’ as a Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) for sparkling wine, placing it in a similar category to French Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée (AOC) and Italian Denominazione di Origine Controllata (DOC).
Mark Driver, co-founder of the Rathfinny Wine Estate, told The Telegraph: “We believe that the name Sussex will become synonymous with high quality sparkling and still wine, so when you go into a bar in London, New York, Beijing, or Tokyo you will be asked ‘Would you like a glass of Champagne or a delicious glass of Sussex?’”
The PDO’s defenders say wines labelled as ‘Sussex’ must pass a stringent analytical test and qualitative analysis by an independent tasting panel, which includes being aged in the bottle for a minimum of 15 months before release, with the wines assessed for their clarity, aroma, taste and the characteristics of their bubbles.
However, some Kent growers have dismissed the new designation as a gimmick. “This is just a marketing exercise based on the political boundaries of a county,” said Graham Barbour, of Woodchurch Wine Estate in Ashford. “It tells you nothing about the geographical features of a particular vineyard or the quality of the wine. “Some Kent vineyards share the same geographical features as parts of Sussex so it’s meaningless to lump everything together under one arbitrary county designation.”
Miles Beale, the chief executive of the Wine and Spirit Trade Association, added, “Not only does the PDO recognise the particular growing conditions found in Sussex, but it also shows the commitment of wine makers in this region to produce high quality still and sparkling wines under strict production criteria.
“The PDO scheme will enhance English wine’s established reputation as a high-quality product to rival the best and boost its vast export potential.”