A VINEYARD is marking the start of the annual grape harvest.

Ridgeview Wine Estate, in Ditchling, has kicked off a busy period of the year, harvesting as many of their grapes as possible to start the process of turning them into wine.

The harvest at Ridgeview takes about two weeks, with the amount of time spent picking depending on the weather.

Hired pickers are brought in to help.

The grapes picked in the Chardonnay vineyard will take three to four years to develop.

Tamara Roberts, chief executive of Ridgeview, said: “These grapes won’t be bottled until at least April next year.

“Then it goes through a secondary fermentation process which can range in time – some wines ferment for up to ten years.

“It means we need an awful lot of space to store all these wines.

“We’ve just finished building another storage area on site.

“At the moment we have about half a million bottles and the additional space will take that capacity to a million bottles.”

The vineyard is very selective about the grapes it grows.

Tamara said: “You have to use a specific type of wine for grapes.

“The climate and soil has a big impact on how the grapes will taste.

“Chardonnay is produced across the world but depending on climates those flavours can change.

“We want really fresh flavours that are the best for sparkling wine.”

Ridgeview started in 1995 with a commitment to making sparkling wines.

Ridgeview currently holds the title of the International Wine and Spirit Competition Winemaker of the Year, beating competition from winemakers across the world.

It is also ranked among the top 50 vineyards in the world.