Appellation of Origin for English Sussex Wines -

oming just days before National English Wine Week, June 18-26, the announcement by Food and Agriculture Minister Victoria Prentis could not be clearer. " This registration, made possible by the Brexit, demonstrates the willingness of wine producers in Sussex to promote their products at home and abroad ". Indeed, while the application was submitted to the European authorities in 2016, the Brexit then forced the British government to give the green light as part of its new national system of geographical indications, introduced in early 2021.
For Sussex wines, which represent about a quarter of the national production for about 50 wineries, the PDO will require an approval procedure and analysis by an independent body, which will assess the organoleptic profile of the wines. For the sparkling wines, which must be made using the traditional method and harvested by hand, the minimum alcoholic strength must be 11 %, a minimum of 15 months aging in bottles is mandatory and the wines must be made from chardonnay, pinot noir and pinot meunier, knowing that other grape varieties such as pinot gris, pinot blanc, petit meslier and arbane are also authorized. The specifications also define the levels of SO2 (150 mg/liter maximum), tartaric acid and acetic acid. For still wines, the minimum alcoholic strength is 10 % and yields must not exceed 14 tons per hectare. In the latter case, the wines can be made from hybrids such as Bacchus or Regent.
Less geological than political limits
This is not the only point on which the wines of Sussex depart from the majority of European rules. Indeed, if the dominant presence of limestone in the soils is underlined, this characteristic is not specific to the vineyards of Sussex. The neighboring county of Kent shares the same. This is why some English winegrowers say that it " is merely a marketing exercise based on the political boundaries of a county. It says nothing about the geographical characteristics of a particular vineyard or the quality of the wine. ". In this, the British authorities - while claiming to have a system visibly inspired by the European Union - are in fact closer to what is practiced in the New World. The AVA (American Viticultural Area) zones in the United States, for example, are certainly delimited, but can cover large areas where the soil and climate characteristics differ significantly from one end to the other. For example, the largest AVA - Upper Mississippi Valley - covers 77,000 km2.
Nevertheless, this new PDO is likely to spread. Already, the representative body for English and Welsh vineyards, WineGB, is preparing a consultation document that will allow all producers to give their opinion on the wording of the new regulation on PGI/PDO. Their position will then be forwarded to the Ministry of Agriculture. " Approval of a PDO for Sussex wines is timely for English and Welsh wines ", says WineGB's director Simon Thorpe. " Our wines have never aroused so much interest and demand... ". His assertion is corroborated by the sign ne Waitrose, which distributes more than 50% of English and Welsh wines in supermarkets. The chain, which has its own vineyard in Hampshire, reports a 47% increase in year-on-year sales for 105 references offered in stores and online. The celebration of the 70th anniversary of Elizabeth II's reign this year will undoubtedly have given a nice boost to local vintages.
The UK vineyard has some 3,800 hectares, having grown by 70% in the last five years. Almost all of the vineyards, 98%, are located in England. There are about 800 farms for 178 wineries, according to WineGB data. Two-thirds of the approximately 10 million bottles of wine produced are sparkling. About 50% of the wines are marketed through direct sales, cellar sales and the internet.


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