More on the proposals for a Sussex PDO

english sparkling wine

A glass of Sussex anyone? I’ve written before about the proposals for a Protected Designation of Origin (PDO; basically, an appellation) for Sussex wine. It’s an issue that has raised its head again with a recent article in the Telegraph. The proposed Sussex PDO is a big problem, and it could be a major hindrance to the progress of English sparkling wine. This is why I’m speaking out against it.

The main issues:

  • The proposed PDO seeks to protect too wide a range of wines lacking characteristics in common. This includes still and sparkling wines made from a large range of grape varietes, grown on very different soils. Take a look at the soil map of the south of England to see why county boundaries are not meaningful for PDOs.
  • The soils and climates in Sussex are so diverse that they can’t hope to impart specific characteristics to wines that could then be protected by a PDO, and there’s no evidence to suggest that Sussex sparkling wine is distinguishable in any way from other English Sparkling Wines.

This is pretty damning, too:

A snapshot analysis of the 2015 international competitions shows that many English Sparkling Wine producers winning the top accolades would fall outside the Sussex PDO:

International Competition Producers awarded a trophy or gold medal Those eligible for Sussex PDO
Decanter World Wine Awards 2015 7 0
The Champagne and International Sparkling Wine Awards 2015 12 1
International Wine Challenge 2015 13 2
International Wine and Spirits Competition 2015 2 1

And as if this wasn’t enough, then look at the following, taken from an objection to the PDO:

In particular the PDO covers
(1) Wine of every colour: White, Rosé, Red, more specifically described as: Light lemon, Mostly pale yellow or lime, Pale gold, Deep golden hues, Honey, Rosé blush, Pale pink, Rose petal, Wild strawberry, Pale to mid salmon, Stronger salmon pink, Salmon pink with slightly golden hue, Pale ruby, Violet through to mid ruby, and Violet and purple red hues;

(2) Wine of any sweetness: namely Brut Nature, Extra Brut, Brut, Extra Dry, Dry, Medium Dry, Sweet, Demi-Sec, Doux

(3) Wines of every flavour: more specifically described as: Crisp lemon citrus, Green apple acidity, Prominent floral and fruit driven flavours, Lemon, Lime, Elderflower, Other floral notes, Apple, Pear, Gooseberry, Delicate and floral, Hints of white flowers, Clean and fresh, Rose petals, Melon, Strawberry, More earthy mix of red berry and baked apple, Have depth and are complex, With a richness in character, Developed autolytic notes of brioche, fresh toast, melon, baked brioche and honey aromas, Soft tannins, Hints of red and black fruits, Leather, Juicy plums and Wild berry.

(4) Wines from a huge range of grapes namely 26 different grape varieties: Acolon; Arbanne, Auxerrois; Bacchus; Chardonnay; Dornfelder; Gamay; Huxelrebe; Muller Thurgau; Orion; Ortega; Petit Meslier, Pinot Blanc; Pinot Gris; Pinot Meunier; Pinot Noir; Pinot Noir Précoce; Regent; Regner; Reichensteiner; Riesling; Rondo; Roter Veltliner; Schonburger; Siegerrebe; Solaris.

(5) Wine of any style: including deacidified/not deacidified, oaked/unoaked, with or without malolactic fermentation, sweetened or not etc. Even orange wines would qualify.

It follows from the above that the PDO does not identify common ‘analytical or organoleptic characteristics’ in ‘Sussex’ Wines, namely Sussex Still Wine and Sussex Sparkling wine. Such wines cannot therefore be grouped together for the purpose of a PDO application. If asked what a ‘Sussex’ wine was, the answer would have to be ‘absolutely anything’. There are no benchmark characteristics against which a Sussex wine could be judged for conformity.

Is anyone going to argue in favour of this PDO?

 

9 comments to More on the proposals for a Sussex PDO

  • Richard Smart

    Hello Jamie,

    A well reasoned article, good for you. A yet to walk infant trying to compete in a marathon??

    I am curious to know the vineyard in the photo.

    Best regards, Richard

  • fatFred

    The wine history of Bordeaux – a huge and diverse wine producing area – shows a gradual specification of the different terroir over a period of a couple of thousand years. This will surely happen, most likely in a shorter time span, with the Sussex PDO.

  • Tim Clarke

    I agree the County designation is unhelpful, but then “Bordeaux” covers all manner of soils and climates too. – Why is that attempts at English Wine appellations often seem so lame? Will they not make sense until they say “Meon Valley”, Surrey Hills etc? Or should we be looking at the geology 7 geography more closely eg “Downland’ for 85% chalk…..

  • gianpaolo

    As the English wine business grows, it quickly starts to develop the same idiosyncrasies and political games that are too popular in other established wine countries, especially of Europe. Good luck with it, we’ll seat back and enjoy the show 🙂

  • Damien

    It all might be premature anyway in a few months time, should the UK leave the EU.

    Nonetheless, PDO’s have always seemed a bit weak-and-watery anyway. Take the “Cornish pasty”; has to be made in Cornwall, from Cornish ingredients.

    Buy the same ingredients from Cornwall and make in exactly the same way outside the county (or even buy superior ingredients), but you can only call it a “pasty”.

    In other words quality, characteristics in common, soil/climate have little to do with a PDO anyway. It’s just geography.

    Any Sussex wine producer could simply label their wine “estate grown” (and/or made) to achieve the same result.

  • Richard, the vineyard in the picture is Leckford Estate, owned by the John Lewis Partnership

  • Well said, totally agree, there’s no point trying to protect something that could be anything. Let things develop a while and if a certain valley or whatever starts showing repeatable, desirable characteristics, time after time, then maybe think about it.

  • Interesting to see how this develop, especially with the upcoming referendum potentially making this a redundant pursuit.
    Not sure why we are trying to become more like France rather than celebrate our differences and use the lower regulations to focus on delivering a superior product.

  • James Le Bouedec

    PDO is about provenance and not about medals, aromas etc. That is terroir. Different concept. I support PDO for the simple reason that I do not want to drink Cornish wine with Essex grapes.

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