Wine trail showcases vineyards in protected region

Vines at Bluebell Vineyard Estates
Bluebell Vineyard Estates have had wines recognised in over 100 awards, the council said [Getty Images]

People have been invited to discover a wine-growing region that was given protected status two years ago, through a new wine trail.

The Explore Wealden Wine Trail is formed of 12 vineyards, which range from large wine estates to smaller, family-owned, “undiscovered hidden gems”, Wealden District Council said.

In 2022, the still and sparkling wines of East and West Sussex were added to a list of products given geographically-protected status.

Visitors can tour the Sussex Weald vineyard, have wine-tastings and picnics, follow nature trails and explore the region.

Wine trails, also known as wine routes, such as Burgundy's Route des Grands Crus, are seen in many wine-producing countries.

They feature regional food, cultural heritage and visitor attractions.

A council spokesperson said: “This initiative not only showcases the exceptional quality of Sussex wines but also underscores the significant economic potential of viticulture and wine tourism to the district.”

According to Explore Wealden, the area now boasts over 20 vineyards. It describes the wines as “cool climate varieties such as Pinot Noir and Chardonnay” that thrive in the region’s fertile soil.

Bottles stored at the Bluebell Vineyard Estate in Sussex
Sussex still and sparkling wines were given protected status in 2022 [Getty Images]

Sussex winemakers first applied to the EU for protected name status in 2015 - before Brexit.

Wealden’s Rathfinny Wine Estate said the process met with delays and took seven years, but in 2022, recognition was given.

At the time, Mark and Sarah Driver, who founded Rathfinny, said it gave Sussex wines a status similar to other wine-growing regions around the world such as Burgundy, Champagne, Rioja and Tuscany.

They said under the designation, wines labelled as “Sussex” had to pass stringent tests by an independent tasting panel.

In the case of Sussex sparkling wines, the wine must have been aged in the bottle for a minimum of 15 months and assessed for clarity, aroma, taste and the characteristics of their bubbles.

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