Ridgeview Wine Estate
“There is no denying the quality of the wines here. I would sooner drink Ridgeview than many champagnes and I love the fact that this is a family owned and run business now in its second generation.”
The multi award winning Ridgeview wines are growing in popularity and acclaim. The latest, somewhat glamorous endorsement, is the Ridgeview Fitzrovia Rosé was served at the recent Oscar ceremony creating a real buzz on social media and in the press.
With Ridgeview winery on our doorstep at Ditchling and their sparkling wines being one of my favourite tipples, it seemed an obvious choice for our first product review.
The vineyard itself is set in a stunning landscape at the foot of the south downs. The tasting room providing sweeping views over the vineyard.
Tamara Roberts CEO of this family owned business described how in 1995, her father, a computer entrepreneur, decided to start a vineyard after a chance conversation with a fellow wine lover who was himself investing in vines. Today, the 20-acre vineyard produces 350,000 bottles a year with plans for significant growth; a very realistic ambition given that the US market is now opening up to English sparkling wine and Ridgeview already appearing on the wine lists of top New York and Californian wine bars and restaurants.
The wines are made using the same grape varieties (Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Meunier) and traditional methods of Champagne. The Grapes are hand harvested and blended then bottle fermented spending a minimum 18 months ‘on the lees’ (in contact with yeast) providing the familiar yeasty, biscuity notes of most champagne wines.
The range of wines make the most of the vine and comprise the spectrum of styles found in classic champagne; blanc de Blanc (100% Chardonnay), Blanc de Noir (the Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier) and two blended varieties; the popular signature Bloomsbury which uses all three grapes but is Chardonnay dominant and the traditional blend Cavendish which is Pinot dominated. In addition, they offer two Rosés; the Fitzrovia created using a standard blending method and the Rose de Noir made using the rarer ‘bleed’ method whereby the skins of the Pinot grapes are left in brief contact during pressing and then extracted to give colour and structure.
The naming of each wine referencing London regions, pays homage to the little known face that the traditional ‘champagne’ method was first documented in the 1800’s by Christopher Merret in London long before it appeared in Champagne.
During our visit and after a tour of the impressive vineyard and processing areas, we were treated to a tasting hosted by the warm and charming Tamara who is clearly passionate about her business. First up the popular Bloomsbury (2013 vintage) retailing at £24.95. This is the blend most often found on restaurant wine lists and local venues by the glass (including 64 degrees, The Curry Leaf café, The Market and Fourth and Church in Hove). The dominance of Chardonnay in this blend provides a crisp fruity (citrus) freshness alongside a subtle buttery softness. This was Maarten’s favourite (he didn’t spit I noticed). Next up the Cavendish (2013 vintage), Pinot dominated providing a fuller bodied wine with structure and complexity which would pair well with food. Finally, the Rosé de Noir (2010 vintage) – a new one for me and now my favourite of their range. Fuller body in style with juicy red fruit flavours and creamy biscuit; a very well balanced and complex wine ideal as an aperitif or with food. Retailing at over £32.95 this is an occasion wine but I was rather taken with it.
There is no denying the quality of the wines here. I would sooner drink Ridgeview than many champagnes and I love the fact that this is a family owned and run business now in its second generation. Tamara and her team are frequently involved with the local food and drink community. She talked fondly of other successful Sussex vineyards and we discussed the fact that Sussex is one of the best counties for food and drink (here here) and yet does not enjoy the same profile as other regions.
I couldn’t resist coming away with a bottle of the Rose de Noir and I’m already looking forward to choosing the occasion – it won’t be long.
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