South East England

Sussex is the largest wine region in the UK and is home to a huge range of wineries: big names, boutique, family run, trendy, organic and pioneering. The English Sparkling Wine from this region is nationally and internationally acclaimed and English still wine production from Sussex vineyards is on the rise.

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Sussex in the southeast of England is the largest wine region in the UK.  It expands along 90 miles of coastline from Camber Sands in the East to Chichester Harbour in the West.  Inland, it’s a pretty rural area peppered with quaint villages and small towns. There are just two cities: Brighton in East Sussex and Chichester in West Sussex.

If you combine the administrative areas of East and West Sussex there are over 700 hectares under vine across the two counties, 50 vineyards and half as many wineries. With new Sussex vineyards popping up all the time, these figures will likely grow in coming years. Some of the biggest names in UK winemaking are based here: Nyetimber in West Sussex and Ridgeview in East Sussex may be names already familiar to you. They sit alongside an impressive list of high achievers from Artelium Wine Estate to Wiston.

Many of the best Sussex wines can be bought on Marasby Market – direct from the winemaker at the same prices available at the vineyard, including:

What grapes are grown in Sussex?

Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier the “noble” grapes used in Classic Method English Sparkling Wine have been a big focus for the English wine industry over recent years and they are the dominant varietals across Sussex vineyards.  Grapes of German origin, such as Dornfelder and Bacchus, have a long-established history in the county: they fell out of favour for a while but are now enjoying a resurgence. And as the climate becomes warmer there are new plantings of varitials like Riesling, Pinot Blanc and Pinot Gris, which is very exciting for the English still wine scene.

Is Sussex a good wine producing region?

The short answer is yes. Many producers – large and small – hold a cabinet full of international and national trophies and medals.  At the 22 IWC Wine Awards, England cemented its reputation as a world class sparkling wine producer and came second only to France for gold medals. Sussex vineyard newcomer Highweald’s Brut Reserve NV received the English Sparkling Wine Trophy and the Non-Vintage English Sparkling Trophy too.

The Department of Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) granted the county a Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) in July 2022. It’s the first region in the UK to receive such a status and it gives Sussex wine the same legal status as Jersey Royal potatoes, Stilton Cheese and Fal Oysters. It means that if you buy a wine with the Sussex PDO, you know it will have been made from grapes grown within the county and made along a strict set of criteria.

What makes Sussex Vineyards so good for wine production?

In simple terms, sun and soil.

Sussex is classified as having a maritime climate, and is one of the sunniest and warmest areas in England: Eastbourne regularly tops the bill as the sunniest area in the UK.   With a report published in July 2022* predicting a further rise in temperatures in the next 20 years, there are some suggestions that Sussex alongside neighbouring Kent and Hampshire will have a better climate to grow grapes for sparkling wine production than the ever warming Champagne region of France. There is also optimism that warmer weather will make still wine production, including red wine, more viable too.

Sussex’s vineyards are planted on a wide variety of soils including chalk of the South Downs which stretches across most of Sussex, from the cliffs at Beachy Head in the east into Hampshire in the west. This is significant because it’s a shared soil type with the Parisian basin where Champagne vineyards are found and much is made of this commonality.  How much difference chalk soil makes depends on who you speak to, as resident wine geek, Simon Huntington, explains “chalk soil is favoured because of its free draining qualities. Vines that fight to get water send their roots deeper this  produces better quality grapes, which in turn will make better wine. But having chalk soil is not enough on its own. If the chalk slope is north facing, as many are in the South Downs, or if it’s high up and windy, as some are in the South Downs, there will be additional challenges to making good quality wine.”

The flatter area to the north, known as the Weald, is also home to some quality vineyards. Here the chalk layer has largely been eroded  and soil types are more likely to major on greensand – the next layer down – or clay.  Take Artelium Artefact #2 Barrel Aged Chardonnay, the 22 IWC Trophy English White Wine which was made with grapes from clay soil.

The debate about the importance of soil (or terroir) in wine making has raged for hundreds of years and now the English wine industry is exploring what that means for its own vineyards and wine production.  Sussex is an ambitioius wine producing county and Sussex vineyards are sure to thrive.

* University of East Anglia (UEA), the London School of Economics, Vinescapes Ltd and Weatherquest Ltd

Vineyards in Kent_Vineyards of Britain author Ed Dallimore

Ed Dallimore selects

Wineries in East Sussex

Marasby Photographer @59Vines Ed Dallimore is author of Vineyards of Britain.  It’s got rave reviews from some of the most famous critics in the business, including Jancis Robinson, and it’s well worth a read.

Here are Ed’s top picks for East Sussex vineyards.

Artelium Wine Estate
Beacon Down
Bluebell Vineyard Estates
Breaky Bottom
Busi Jacobsohn Wine Estate
Charles Palmer Vineyards
Davenport Vineyards
Fox & Fox Mayfield
Henners Vineyard
Hoffman & Rathbone
Hollow Lane Vineyard
Oastbrook Estate Vineyard
Off the Line Vineyard
Oxney Organic Estate
Rathfinny Wine Estate
Ridgeview Wine Estate
Sedlescombe Organic
Tillingham Wines
Wildwood Vineyard


Ed Dalllimore Selects

Wineries in West Sussex

Marasby Photographer @59Vines Ed Dallimore is author of Vineyards of Britain.  It’s got rave reviews from some of the most famous critics in the business, including Jancis Robinson, and it’s well worth a read.

Here are Ed’s top picks for West Sussex vineyards

Albourne Estate
Ashling Park Estate
Blackdown Ridge
Digby Fine English
Dillons Vineyard
Kingscote Estate and Vineyard
Nutbourne Vineyards
Roebuck Estates
Stopham Vineyard
Sugrue South Downs
Tinwood Estate
Trotten Estate Vineyards
Wiston Estate

Wineries in West Sussex, Vineyards of Britain, Ed Dallimore