TODAY Nick Mosley tells how the vineyards and wineries of Sussex are currently celebrating English Wine Week – an annual event showcasing the best wines grown and produced in the UK.

English Wine Week presents an ideal opportunity to get to know our wines better, as vineyards and retailers highlight the many fantastic sparkling and still wines that are readily available for you to enjoy.

The format of the event this year is a little different in order to accommodate the Covid-19 lockdown and social distancing. Whilst a handful of vineyards are still selling from their cellar door, many of the tastings have now migrated to social media to allow wine-lovers across the country and internationally to discover more about these world-class wines through interactive presentations and virtual tours hosted by the winemakers themselves.

“We generally utilise English Wine Week to drive visitors to the estate for specialised tours and tastings”, said Millie Driver of Rathfinny Estate near Alfriston.

“This year we are having to be virtual with our events however our engagement remains similar through our email database and social channels”.

“We would normally be hosting tours and events in the vineyard, as well as in-store tastings with our retailers”, said Alex Notman-Watt of Wiston Estate near Pulborough. “However, as we’re unable to do this at the moment, we thought that we’d bring Wiston Estate to people virtually instead via YouTube”.

During English Wine Week, Bolney Wine Estate typically partners with the many pubs, hotels and restaurants that it supplies so this year – with hospitality businesses still closed – they’re also going online in conjunction with their trade customers.

“To celebrate the week we are working with some of our partners to hold virtual collaborative events”, said Sam Linter of Bolney. “These include our Instagram Live Pinot Noir tasting with Elite Pubs and our virtual tastings with The Hawkins Brothers, both of which are trade partners we work closely with”.

With its 40 years of trading, Brighton’s Butlers Wine Cellar is a longstanding champion of the English wine industry and participates in English Wine Week each year. This week they are particularly focussing on Nyetimber wines from West Sussex and Plumpton Estate in East Sussex.

“We are always promoting English wines and throughout the pandemic have been filming wine videos and featuring English wines every Friday for English wine night to encourage people to keep buying them as the industry is struggling, Cassie Gould from Butlers said.

“Since lockdown we have seen a dip in English wine sales. Perhaps due to the association with fizz being a celebratory drink, and during these difficult times there’s been little to celebrate, but I think that’s mainly due to people’s general concerns about income and not having as much spending power.”

Butler’s Wine Cellar have worked alongside Plumpton College near Lewes for many years so were excited to be approached by the Wine Department to produce their very own wine. As the first university accredited educational establishment in the UK to offer bachelors and masters degrees in wine making and the wider wine business, Plumpton College has trained many of those working in the English wine industry.

“We tasted numerous tank and bottled samples with the winemaking team,” Cassie said.

“Then we tested different blends and oak treatments before settling on the two wines we have. A characterful and rich white Ortega and a light bodied and really juicy unoaked Pinot Noir.

“We had our own labels designed and we make a donation from each bottle sold to the Crew Club charity where we are trustees. Our Plumpton wines are discounted during English Wine Week until Sunday.”

With so many people restricted to their homes, recent lockdown has generated a growing interest in and demand for English wine.

“Our vineyard shop has stayed open throughout lockdown and we’ve also increased our food and drink offerings online to include fresh produce and more non-perishable food products from local Sussex suppliers”, said Sam Linter, managing director and head winemaker from Bolney. “Through this we have seen an increase in both the awareness of English wine as well as the appreciation for good quality local produce, as customers move towards buying local.”

Alex from Wiston Estate agrees.

She said: “There is a huge push to support and buy local produce, which has helped pave the way. Support from the media and critics really helps too. Our Wiston Brut non-vintage featured on Saturday Kitchen’s English Wine Week feature with Helen McGinn last Saturday morning and the feedback from the tasting has been fantastic”.

The Sussex vineyards are quietly confident that 2020 will be a good year for English wines. Despite some close calls with frost earlier in the spring, the year has started well with flowering now underway and the vines putting on some good growth due to the warm sunny weather. However, Sussex’s wine makers won’t be popping any corks just yet until they know what the final harvest brings in September..

English Wine Week runs until Sunday, June 28. Find out more – including links to online events hosted by Rathfinny Estate and Wiston Estate – at