Sussex wine producers are toasting the future after winning geographical protected status for wines produced in both East and West Sussex.
Sussex Wine has joined the family of Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) under the new UK Geographical Indication (GI) scheme.
The announcement made by Defra just ahead of the start of English Wine Week (18-26 June) means that still and sparkling wines from Sussex will have the similar legal protection to other wine-growing regions such as Champagne and Burgundy.
This is an exciting moment for Sussex wine producers, positioning them as the beating heart of a rapidly developing English wine industry.
It has taken seven years to get to this point. The PDO application was first submitted in 2015, with winemakers highlighting that Sussex wine producers had already won some of the top accolades on the international stage.
It is hoped that PDO status will ensure that Sussex wines will continue to be considered amongst the best available in the world, helping wine producers in the region to grow their reputation both at home and internationally.
The designation is recognition of both the quality of Sussex wine and the professionalism of its producers.
It offers reassurance for producers that their hard work and reputation is protected for the future, while also reassuring consumers that the wine they are buying is of a quality recognised by the protected status award.
Making the announcement, food and farming minister Victoria Prentis said the day had now come when “as a treat, we no longer have a glass of champagne but we can together have a glass of Sussex”.
Of course, other UK wine hotspots, such as Kent and Hampshire, also have an ever-growing reputation for making high quality wines, so it would not be a surprise if we were to see more PDO applications further down the line.
But the first PDO for English wine feels like an important milestone for the industry and one that many in the sector will want to celebrate.
Nick Watson leads Strutt & Parker’s viticulture group. The company is expert in identifying land suitable for vines through purchases, long leases and joint venture agreements. It also specialises in planning, development and project management of buildings in the countryside, including wineries and visitor centres.