Where chalk-white cliffs drop sharply into the sea and ancient woodlands press against a cerulean sky, slope after slope of glistening vines rustle quietly in the rural Sussex countryside. Known as the homeland of English wine, this beautiful region lays claim to some of the most innovative vineyards and wineries in the UK.
Recently awarded a Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) – a status similar to the likes of other iconic wine growing regions around the world such as Champagne, Rioja and Tuscany, over the past few decades, the Sussex wine scene has experienced a remarkable blossoming. The region’s unique climate and geology, combined with the expertise and passion of local winemakers, have created the perfect conditions for producing exceptional wine.
From historic estates to boutique producers, visiting one (or many) of the region’s wineries offers a nuanced experience. Take the time to enjoy elegant wines amidst the beautiful English countryside. So, pour a glass and read on to discover some of Sussex’s most charming wineries and the luxury, bespoke experiences they offer.
Nestled in the stunning South Down National Park is Ridgeview Estate. They have produced award-winning sparkling wines since 1995. Now led by the second generation of the Roberts family, they represent the cutting edge of the English wine scene. Ridgeview specialises in cool climate viticulture and is committed to sustainable practices. Their philosophy remains as strong today as it was over 25 years ago – to produce perfectly balanced and full-bodied wine.
Visitors to Ridgeview can enjoy a range of guided tours and tastings. Visit the state-of-the-art winery and gain an insight into the estate’s pioneering history. Strolling through the vineyard, chat with one of Ridgeview’s knowledgeable guides. Your clients will learn about the craftsmanship and dedication behind its award-winning wines.
The estate’s light-filled tasting room offers stunning views across the Downs. Here, your clients can taste their way through a unique portfolio of signature wines, from the oldest vintage to the freshest releases. It will be a memorable experience as an expert guides your clients through the complex notes and structured character of a myriad of beautiful bottles. For a match made in heaven, opt for the Sussex Wine and Cheese Tour, which pairs bright and elegant sparkling wines with a selection of award-winning local cheeses.
Tillingham, near Rye, is an innovative and dynamic wine estate. A holistically managed farmstead, they champion organic and low-intervention farming. Ben Walgate is at the helm, managing woodland, arable pasture and 40,000 productive vines. Tillingham’s hub is a collection of beautifully renovated farm buildings. The estate includes a restaurant and eleven charming rooms for overnight guests.
Ben draws inspiration from traditional Georgian winemaking techniques. He ferments some of Tillingham’s wines in qvevri. These large terracotta pots are buried up to their necks in the ground. The process produces a unique, earthy flavour profile that authentically reflects the origin of the wine. Joining a guided tour allows visitors to learn more about Tillingham’s biodynamic winery.
For guests who want to linger on among the peaceful pastures, ancient woodland and blossoming fruit trees, take advantage of the Hop Barn. Recently converted, the barn sports several quirky rooms. Well-loved pieces of mismatched furniture echo the estate’s relaxed vibe. During the summer, visitors can opt for a luxury bell tent within the grounds – complete with king size bed, log burner and outside fire that crackles embers into an inky sky.
Tillingham’s restaurant, led by the talented Brendan Eades, serves seasonal food sourced from the estate and fish caught at Rye Harbour. Awarded a Michelin Green Star in 2022, a field-to-fork ethos is at the heart of the dining experience – with a menu sporting Tillingham lamb, home-grown tomatoes and wild fennel. With plenty of organic wine, delicious local food, comfy rooms and stunning views across the salt marshes to the distant sea – Tillingham encourages you to come for a tour and stay for the weekend.
Pioneers of English wine since 1972, Bolney Wine Estate is one of the most acclaimed wineries in Sussex and has been producing high-quality still and sparkling wines for over 50 years. Established by Janet and Rodney Pratt, their daughter, Sam Linter, now manages the estate.
Tucked on the edge of the South Downs, Bolney Estate covers 40 acres of meticulously kept vineyards. Throughout the season, the grapevine canopy (trunk, cordon, stems, leaves, flowers and fruit) are carefully managed to create the perfect microclimate necessary for the highest quality fruit. The soil here consists of sandy loam, siltstone and clay, sat over sandstone bedrock, which means it drains easily and retains heat well. This winning combination produces healthy, high-yielding vines and, in turn, rich-bodied delicious wine.
With a rich heritage, Bolney is a brilliant place for clients to enjoy an immersive tour and tasting. On their Ultimate Tour, enjoy a glass of sparkling wine on arrival and meander through the exquisite 18-acre vineyard to learn about its unique terroir. Take an exclusive look inside the winery and chat with your expert guide about Bolney’s proud history.
The main event is a tutored tasting of five of their award-winning wines, all individually paired with carefully curated food-matching plates. There is also a seasonal mezze board, followed by a delicious dessert. With sharp light bouncing off freshly polished glass and verdant leaves fluttering gently in the breeze – a tour at Bolney is the perfect way to spend a warm, sunny day in the heat of a southern summer.
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Set in the heart of West Sussex, Kingscote is a magnificent 160-acre estate. They produce award-winning wine against a backdrop of peaceful pastoral scenery. Family-owned, the estate has been operating organically since 2019. Visitors can feel this decision in the relaxed nature of the grounds; sheep roam, horses graze, and natural woodland flourishes.
Kingscote manages over 70 acres of vines, growing many still varieties. The estate also produces three sparkling varieties – Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier. These delightful wines succeed in reflecting the unique taste of Sussex.
The winery offers expert tours, including a stroll through the vineyard and a visit to the wine press. Take advantage of a guided tasting in an original 15th-century blithe barn full of exposed beams and twinkling fairy lights. Afterwards, enjoy a ploughman’s lunch or a decadent afternoon tea beneath parasols to shade you from the warm summer sun.
Kingscote is a friendly, welcoming estate which encircles rolling hills. They’re in good company; the historic Bluebell steam train passes through here too. The idyllic picture is complete with a winding river, fishing lakes and a floral apple orchard. A visit to Kingscote will surely be a sparkling day in more ways than one.
Rathfinny Wine Estate is a hidden gem for wine lovers seeking a luxurious and idyllic countryside getaway. The family-owned estate, established in 2010, is set on a south-facing slope, only 3 miles from the sea. Located on the same band of chalk that forms the Paris Basin, it produces some of England’s finest sparkling wines.
With a light salty breeze wandering over the fields and skies that stretch forever, Rathfinny is the perfect place to unwind. As well as offering tours and tastings, visitors can enjoy a range of dining options. The Tasting Room Restaurant takes centre stage for those looking for the ultimate culinary experience. Michelin-recommended, talented chefs produce seasonal, elegant dishes. These are perfectly paired with signature wines selected by the winemakers.
For those who wish to spend a peaceful night surrounded by the slanting slopes of Rathfinny, book a room in one of the lovingly restored Flint Barns. The unique and historic buildings lie at the western end of the estate and offer relaxed luxury with stunning views across the South Downs. The rooms are elegantly simple, with soft bed linen, solid rustic furniture and local art prints decorating the walls. There’s a cosy snug, where you can curl up and read with a glass of pinot noir in hand, as well as an enclosed courtyard – the perfect place to celebrate with a bottle or two of fizz.
With a plethora of summer events busying the Rathfinny calendar – from al fresco dining to mellow evening music, dine-in-the-vines dinners to exclusive guest chef takeovers, a visit to Rathfinny is sure to leave you feeling delightfully bright and joyfully merry.
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