Sussex PDO a view from Oastbrook
Winemakers and co-owners of Oastbrook, Nick and America Brewer, share their views
Sussex has now earned its very own PDO but this has met with some mixed reviews from those outside of the Sussex region. Some comments have been more nuanced and have sited Oastbrook as having a terroir more in common with Kent vineyards such as Gusbourne. The criticism of the PDO is that its geography covers diverse terroirs and therefore there is not a common wine style in the region. Neil Tully has argued that
“PDOs in Europe are broadly about the ecosystem of the vine – what might be called terroir. They may be vast (Champagne, or AC Cotes du Rhone) or small (Pauillac or Le Montrachet) but they are about what gives a wine their style. The same is true of Chianti, Rioja, and the Pfalz. A large PDO like Champagne cuts across four departements (French counties) and two very distinct regions. Le Montrachet is a vineyard split between two villages and Rioja includes three administrative regions of Spain. Yet they share common climatic (and often geological) features, use the same grape varieties and have a common culture of production – of what they are trying to make and how they are in fact making it.
The Sussex PDO is not like that. Its boundaries are East and West Sussex – not rooted in environment per se but stretching back to tribal identity in Anglo-Saxon England and then medieval local organisation. Yet the assumption is that because this is where local authorities are based, this is where wine will have a common character”
The change does not eliminate other producers of English wine in Hampshire, Kent, Dorset, Cornwall and so on from producing high quality wines, but the PDO ensures that if you purchase a Sussex wine, not only will you be sure of its provenance but also of its quality. As Simon Thorpe the CEO of WineGB stated, This is a great step forward for English Wine. This PDO application is a nod to the future of PDOs in England and Wales.
The ambition is that in ten years time you will walk into a restaurant in New York, Beijing and Tokyo and the bartender asks you: “Would you like a glass of Champagne?” or “Can I recommend a delicious glass of Sussex?”
We would rather flip this logic on its head and acknowledge that the terroirs are indeed different but we welcome this PDO as quality marque, defining quality Sussex wines as tightly bound to a level of quality. If seen in this vein it does not preclude further sub specialisations based on terroir within the Sussex region. If you are interested more information on terroir please have a look at our blog on Pinot Noir.