The Upsurge of Sparkling Wine, With Sussex’s Ridgeview Wine Estate
Sparkling wine has seen a great influx in popularity on English soil over the past decade. According to Director of Communications at Ridgeview Mardi Roberts, the industry as a whole has witnessed a growth of 8 million, to 12 million bottles per year sourced from the English countryside; at the forefront of this expansion and one of the first sparkling wineries to export out of England, is the intimate family-owned vineyard of Ridgeview Wine Estate. Mike and Chris Roberts began bottling wine at Ridgeview as a pair back in 1995. However, investing back into the business and evolving according to rising demand, the company now has 40 permanent employees, and numerous seasonal hands to produce their sparkling wines. Mardi was kind enough to provide a tour and tasting of the grounds, to communicate the ever-expanding progress of the second-generation estate.
Nestled in the English countryside is the Sussex-based Ridgeview Wine Estate – a sparkling wine-only vineyard. Their name originates from the picturesque backdrop, overlooking the rolling hills of the South Downs as the view of the ridge is located just beyond the trees.
Previously unpopular, England's sparkling wine journey has taken an accelerated turn under the influence of vineyards like Ridgeview. Seeking to secure a position for English sparkling wines in a scope wholly controlled by Champagne and American sparkling wines, the estate has made a significant name for itself by winning many awards both national and international. To name a few, their first wine ever made achieved the title of English Wine of the Year, and in 2005 they won The Yarden Trophy. But it was in 2010 at the Decanter World Wine Awards when the company really established its prestige amongst other leading sparkling wineries, achieving the title of International Sparkling Wine of the Year.
Ridgeview Wine Estate places transparency at the forefront of its ethos, and continues to expand the English sparkling wine market through familiarity and close cooperation between its estate and growers. Whilst Ridgeview has some of the oldest chardonnay vines in the country at their estate, they also source additional grapes from across the south of England to enable the different ripening periods and steady their income of produce and the creation of their wines. Working county to county, they unveil the shroud of secrecy surrounding Champagne product manufacturing, with the hopes of developing not only as a family-run business, but with their partnership vineyards.
A Bid for Sustainability
Photos courtesy of Jennifer Chee
Sustainability is at the forefront of their ethos. This is centred not only on the environmental effect of their work but equally on the social impact as a company that proudly holds a B Corp status. A family-owned business, Ridgeview invests back into the business with Mardi and Head Winemaker, Simon's own sons beginning their journey to master the craft of their parents. Not only providing sustainability within the business itself, Ridgeview has launched multiple endeavours to create a corporation of renewal and resurgence. Beehives, bug hotels and their own restaurant, The Rows and Vine Restaurant, which uses locally sourced ingredients, are to name but a few of Ridgeview's bid for environmental acceleration; modernity is at the heart of their ethos.
They are also dedicating significant time and effort to ensure that the fruits of their labour mirror their core values. Working alongside Marco Simonit, an expert pruner and consultant, the team is implementing innovative methods to maintain their crops, using gentle pruning to retain their white grape crops, as the vineyard is home to some of the oldest Chardonnay vines in the country. Being a sparkling wine-only estate, Ridgeview influences its craft on 'traditional method' winemaking, known by many to bottle perfectly bubbly wines sourced from Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier.
Their social and environmental impact has caused quite a stir, and through the opening of their sustainable restaurant, they are expecting more visitors than ever in the coming summer months.
Photos courtesy of Jennifer Chee
During our visit, we tried five of Ridgeview's iconic sparkling wines. These included their bestsellers – the Bloomsbury and the Cavendish, their rose sparkling wine – the Fitzrovia Rose, their vintage bottle – the Blanc de Noirs, and their recently released, limited edition sparkling red wine – the Sparkling Red Reserve. Their numerous awards, and bottles for every occasion have carried their name into impressive settings, including Royal occasions such as Queen Elizabeth II's 80th birthday. The Bloomsbury bottle, their most popular product, has been focused on the upcoming Coronation of Charles III in May, and their Fitzrovia Rose has previously been used for occasions with Barack Obama. From celebratory, citrusy bubbles, to reserved deeper tones of nuts and cherry, their star-studded sparkling wines cater to all occasions.
To reiterate Ridgeview's option for modernity, one may look no further than its packaging. The sleek black bottles circled with colour-coordinated labelling creates a refreshing renewal amongst sparkling wines and attract a different demographic to the traditional Champagne fanatics, and sales have grown from 30,000 bottles to 400,000 bottles sold per year from Ridgeview itself. Their current packaging now clearly advertises their English heritage, with pride taken in the acceleration that English sparkling wine has taken in viticulture.
Video courtesy of Jennifer Chee