Lewes vineyard toasts 40 years

Wine corks were popping as Breaky Bottom Vineyard celebrated its 40th birthday with a party at Pelham House in Lewes on Thursday October 2.

Friends of the vineyard enjoyed a canape reception and wine tasting featuring the first release of Cuvée Koizumi Yakumo, winner of the international Wine Challenge Gold Medal 2014 introduced by the winemaker Peter Hall.

This was followed by a reception and dinner with guests including Olly Smith, Charles Metcalfe, Kathryn McWhirter and poet John Agard.

The event was part of Lewes October Feast.

Event spokesperson Christine Ient said: “It was an excellent evening.

“The wine tasting was well attended and 120 people attended the reception.”

Guests enjoyed a dinner of scallops and South Downs Lamb followed by pears poached in Breaky Bottom cassis, provided by Pelham House.

Olly Smith and Charles Metcalfe spoke about their history with Breaky Bottom and praised Peter Hall and the Breaky Bottom vineyard family.

Johnny Agard also performed poems based on wine.

At only six acres it is one of the smallest but most influential English vineyards.

Peter Hall planted his vineyard at Breaky Bottom near Lewes in 1974 at a time when there were only a dozen or so growers in the whole country - there are now over 400.

He had come to realise that there was a good potential for grape growing and winemaking in the UK where the climate is very similar to that of The Loire, and Champagne.

The first vintage was produced in 1976.

Wine drinkers admired the clean, dry freshness of this French style still white wine and it won early recognition from wine writers.

In 1987 Oz Clarke chose Peter as the best winemaker in Britain in a series of articles, and in 1993 the Seyval Blanc 1990 won a Gold Medal in the International Wine Challenge, the largest blind tasting in the world.

Since 1994 Methode Champenoise sparkling wine has been made and the success of this development has meant that since 2004 Breaky Bottom now produces 100 per cent sparkling wine.

November 2013 Breaky Bottom, one of the smallest commercial vineyards in the UK was short listed for the UK Wine Producer Award by the International Wine and Spirit Competition.

Breaky Bottom also produces cassis made from blackcurrants grown on site, with a recipe handed down through Peter’s French mother and grandfather.