(By Peter Richards MW & Susie Barrie MW)
Our BritPop bandwagon rolls on. Having recently tippled our way around Dorset and popped into Nyetimber and Wiston we set off for the wilds of Sussex and Kent to tour some of the top names in English wine, visiting the likes of Ridgeview, Hobdens, Chapel Down, Gusbourne and the increasingly high-profile centre of wine learning that is Plumpton College.
It was a fascinating trip. English wine is at an intriguing juncture in its evolution. Unquestionably there is excellent and ever-improving quality. Also increasing diversity, experimentation and ambition.
There are also growing pains. New vineyard plantings have boomed in recent years, taking the total to over 2,000 hectares for the first time ever, and there are concerns about where and how all the new wine will find a market. Producers in Sussex, the hotbed of English sparkling wine production, are anxiously mulling the pros and cons of adopting a new official designation for Sussex sparkling wine.
But generally the feel is relentlessly positive. There is something of a gold-rush atmosphere. Not in the sense of swift enrichment but more about being at the cutting edge of a brand new phenomenon that looks set to change the face of wine. Albeit in an inevitably modest, decidedly British way.
Here are some photos from the trip.