New book explores the world of Sussex wine-making

Chichester-based wine writer and author Liz Sagues is spreading the word on the pleasures of English wine, still and sparkling, with an innovative new book.

Liz Sagues
Liz Sagues

Sussex by the Glass takes the story of the country’s fastest-growing agricultural sector to a further, more specific level, focusing on one county and two pioneer winemaking families.

Liz said: “Sussex is particularly important in the modern development of English wine, now recognised worldwide for its high quality. It was an obvious choice for what is, I believe, the first book to be devoted to a single English wine region.”

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Liz cites the county’s role as producer of many of England’s finest bottles. It was a Sussex vineyard which first brought English sparkling wine to international renown; the county is home to a world-recognised wine college; and it is in the forefront of the movement towards more sustainable English wine.

“Central characters in the book are the long-established Bolney and Ridgeview estates. Both are remarkable because they are multi-generation businesses, rare in a comparatively new industry – and they are both now headed by the daughters of their founders. That makes the launch of Sussex by the Glass on International Women’s Day 2021 (March 8) particularly appropriate.”

Liz added: “I was very fortunate in being able to spend time with many of the people involved in creating what today are two major brands in English wine. The stories of both estates are fascinating, from how and why they were founded, through tribulations and triumphs to their continuing success at home and abroad.

“This is exactly the right moment to publish a book that tells a broader story through their experiences. Ridgeview Wine Estate toasted its 25th anniversary last year, and Bolney Wine Estate will reach its 50th birthday in 2022.”

The book explains the historical background to winemaking in England and also introduces the “champagne widows”, vital in developing fine sparkling wine.

“A substantial section describes, month by month, what happens among the vines and in the winery, to help visitors to English vineyards understand how grapes end up in glass. There is reference too to Sussex wine producers’ ingenious response to the coronavirus pandemic which curtailed many of their activities.”

Liz also acknowledges the crucial roles of flagship Sussex vineyard Nyetimber Estate, whose American founders’ dogged, champagne-inspired determination brought English sparkling wine to world acclaim, and of the Wine Division of Plumpton College in training highly accomplished wine professionals.

“But I particularly wanted the book to celebrate the Bolney and Ridgeview estates, who have been so important in making excellent Sussex wine accessible to so many people. They are neighbours, near Burgess Hill, and good friends, continuing the happy ethos of sharing expertise and knowledge that characterises the English wine industry.

“Both have faced significant problems – I particularly love the story of the ‘300 little bombs’ that resulted when Bolney first made sparkling wine – but have overcome them to become leading lights in something very special, in Sussex and beyond.

“Thanks to their efforts, and those of other Sussex wine producers, the county is the first UK wine region in line for protected designation of origin status, affirming the quality of its products.”

Liz is particularly proud that her book is a true celebration of Sussex – “written and designed here and printed by the excellent Selsey Press”.

Liz is an award-winning wine journalist, whose book A Celebration of English Wine (Robert Hale, 2018) brought to wine consumers a story neglected for a decade.

She is also author of Chichester Harbour: England’s Coastal Gem (Robert Hale, 2013).

Sussex by the Glass, which has more than 100 colour photographs, is available from Tanwood Press (email [email protected]) for £12 including UK postage.