Fine wines from Sussex

Fine wines may not be the first thing that springs to mind when people think of Sussex, but one local vineyard owner is calling for higher standards to be applied to the UK wine industry.  Michael Roberts, one of the owners of Ditchling Common’s Ridgeview Estate and the chief winemaker, has even gone so far as to trademark a new word, in the hope that it will become England’s equivalent to champagne.

“Merret”, named after the 17th century winemaker Christopher Merret, will be used to identify all the sparkling wines produced at Ridgeview, and Roberts is hopeful that other vineyards around the UK will follow his example and help get the new term into common usage. Roberts chose the name of Christopher Merret as he was the first man in the world to come up with the now widely-used method of producing sparkling wine – over a quarter of a century before the French region of Champagne started producing its famous tipple.

The idea of a blanket term for English sparkling wine has already won the support of other winemakers in the country, with managers at both  Highdown Vineyard and  the Bolney Wine Estate agreeing that English wine in general has to do more to create an identifiable brand if it is going to compete with established names.

The Ridgeview Estate has already achieved some national success after its sparkling wine was chosen to be served at an important dinner at Buckingham Palace, attended by US President Barack Obama and his wife. Roberts, who founded the vineyard in the 1990s, is determined to ensure the future success of the English wine industry by guaranteeing standards for consumers.