Hi all, John The Wine Guy here – I trust all is good with everyone!
Here a bit later than planned, but as I eluded too in my last outing, I have been working a harvest at the fabulous Ridgeview winery estate in Sussex.
It has been an incredible experience and one that I wanted to share with you and recommend to anyone who gets the opportunity. Needless to say, one of the reasons for the slight delay in writing is that they have kept me busy!! Haha!
I’m also currently studying for exams with the WSET (Wine & Spirit Education Trust) in December which is keeping me on my toes. Over 25 wine regions to know about including grape varieties, landscapes and well known labels. Plus a blind tasting.. All-in-all, lots going on.
Ridgeview themselves are pioneers of the sparking English wine trade and are celebrating their 25th anniversary this year. Founded by Mike and Chris Roberts the former was awarded an MBE in 2011 for his service to the English wine industry. He sadly passed away in 2014 but his wife and their 2 children, Tamara and Simon are still running a very successful and also, really lovely business. This year to mark the 25th anniversary they have released a special edition single estate oak reserve but more on that later.
The harvest itself was my first and as I stated above, what a great experience! I’ve been told that due to Covid this year it was run in a very different way, but as a newbie I thought it was still pretty cool! Working with Simon and his team on a daily basis was great and you realise the amount of work that goes into producing the bottles we have on our tables.
I was part of the “day” team, working up to 12 hour shifts starting at 7am and finishing when we were done. There were 5 of us in our little “press loading” team and we all got on really well. None of us had any experience but we all had a passion for wine! We all had stories to share around the current joys of Covid too (yawn), but we all supported each other and it’s amazing to hear what people are doing to make things happen!
The grapes are picked from the vines by a specialist team and then arrive to us in the vineyard on 4 tonne pallets, with around 30 crates per pallet. It’s amazing to think how many grapes go into a bottle of wine ( between 600 and 800 apparently) and we were helping produce thousands of bottles!
The pallets were then lifted via a fork lift onto a Mezzanine which is where we were tasked with loading the 20kg crates into either of the 2 huge grape presses. Once both presses were loaded we would then wait for the grapes to be pressed (around 2-3 hours) before the next load. I say waited, in that time we cleaned and prepared for the next load. Washing machines, cleaning crates and mopping floors. All very glamorous!
We averaged around 4 – 6 presses per day which meant we were pressing up to 24 tonnes of grapes per day!! That is a lot of grapes!
The wine itself is expected to be released in around 2 years, so we will be eagerly awaiting the fruits of our labour. In the mean time we will have to drink what’s available and of the 7 current sparkling wines they produce, below are my 3 favourites.
Firstly, it’s available in Waitrose so perfect for Christmas or any future celebrations coming up… Another week over in lockdown 2.0, the end of lockdown, birthday’s, you get the gist!
Light in colour and very easy drinking, this crisp fresh sparkling wine is prefect as an aperitif. On the nose you will find hints of melon and honey with flavours of citrus and peach to accompany.
This single estate sparkling is more akin to the champagne styles you find in France. On the nose you will find classic lemon notes with this particular vintage showing that of lychee and pineapple too. With a rounded body you will find complex flavours of hazelnut and brioche. As an accompaniment to oysters or scallops you really can’t go wrong!
3, Oak reserve
What an incredible wine this is! A limited edition to celebrate 25 years of winemaking get in quick while you still can. A barrel fermented sparkling wine using only the best of the grapes from the estate in Ditchling, Sussex. Below is a Video of the winemaker himself talking about the production side and in the tasting notes you’ll find butter, lychee and pineapple…
Until the next time,
Cheers, John The Wine Guy