Ridgeview – Wine’s Next Chapter
Since Locate East Sussex’s last visit to Ridgeview Wine Estate, Sussex Wine has grown in esteem, making it easier to visit the high street and buy the best English wine available. As restrictions start to wind down, East Sussex’s wineries are now re-opening their doors to the public.
As part of a Locate East Sussex’s series, looking at wineries this Summer 2021, we visited Ridgeview to find out about what progression it has made in the last three years, its ongoing plans, and how it has been able to go from strength to strength in this strange, new chapter of history.
Situated near Ditchling Beacon, the highest point in East Sussex, Ridgeview’s main site is at the heart of the Sussex South Downs, but Ridgeview’s outlook has always been the same: creating high-quality wine. Starting as a dream in 1995 by Mike and Chris Roberts, the growth of the industry and Ridgeview has been the result of year-on-year growth in its sales and now becoming a must-visit destination. While English wine is not held by geography, Sussex has become a haven of not only the best wine but the best minds behind consistently award-winning sparkling wine.
The business has become inspirational to many in the community and plays an influential part in WineGB, ensuring both quality and the classic methods that makes Ridgeview’s wine some of the best worldwide. Their popularity has even attracted the likes of Jamie Oliver and Jimmy Doherty to visit for their show Jamie and Jimmy’s Friday Night Feast.
In the last few years, consumers have become accustomed to seeing Ridgeview on the shelves at Waitrose and Marks and Spencer, but this generation’s consumers are looking for new experiences online as well as offline.
While COVID-19 caused a dip in sales within the restaurant and catering business, Ridgeview have seen a rise in purchases online with over 2,000% rise in sales.
In the wine industry, different years can lead to different yields and vintages, 2020 is not 2018 in terms of the yield of grapes or in practice, with the complexities of Brexit still apparent, but it has adapted successfully to meet the customer where they are.
Ridgeview’s approach is to make English wine accessible, not just to increase its own sales but because a healthy sector makes sure that the industry remains competitive in the international marketplace and builds up the industry locally.
Working collaboratively with Plumpton College, with their world-renowned Wine Division that has trained the best of the best in the English-speaking world, Ridgeview has been elevated to be one of the best in English wine, consistently winning awards, such as accolades from International Wine Challenge for most of their vintages.
Sussex by the Glass
Detailed in the book Sussex by the Glass, renowned Sussex-based wine journalist Liz Sagues details the journeys of two families, Ridgeview in East Sussex, and Bolney Wine Estate in West Sussex, who have risen organically to represent what English wine is and lead an industry that is fast becoming competitive.
Framed around the families and their female CEOs, Tamara Roberts and Sam Linter, the book offers exclusive access into the inner workings of these viticultural trailblazers, who built on the legacy of their parents to create sustainable, as well as environmentally conscious businesses, amid an industry that had limited female presence, let alone leadership.
Leading and encouraging more inclusion and flexibility has fostered more excellence than English wine had ever done before. Liz Sagues illustrates this, explaining how Sussex wine can challenge the likes of Bordeaux and Napa Valley, but still be only 20 minutes from Gatwick and Brighton, and 50 minutes away from London.
Alongside many wineries and cultural institution within Sussex Modern, an initiative to encourage quality tourism and investment (and offer mixed cases of wines), Ridgeview supports Sussex in becoming the premier county to invest in and to visit, pushing boundaries and encouraging a culture of innovation.
Ridgeview was awarded for its efforts in the past year, including being awarded Virtual Business Awards’ ‘Sussex Success Story 2020’, which in the disruptive year was seen as a welcome relief and reward for their resilience during that difficult time.
Welcoming visitors this summer…
As the world starts to open, Ridgeview has set up the Ridgeview Wine Garden, a safe place to experience the great Sussex countryside and be able to enjoy a glass of sparkling wine amidst the vines themselves. Ridgeview is known for creating experiences, such as their popular celebration Ridgefest attracting over a thousand visitors, yet remaining an open and accessible place to join a community of astute yet humble connoisseurs.
Ridgeview creates a tailor-made experience for visitors to enjoy their Chardonnay vineyard and the titular ridge view of the South Downs. With space for socially distanced get-togethers for family and friends and great hospitality, bookings are selling out.
…And into the future
In the future, Ridgeview plans to expand the business, with an aim to increase its production towards 800,000 bottles a year and create a permanent hospitality space that can host indoor and outdoor events with ease. Ridgeview also seeks to become transparent, applying for B-Corp certification, and becoming sustainable to be a ‘force for good’.
Ridgeview does not view its winery as a place to mark off a map after visiting the tasting rooms, but a place that both visitors and the wider Sussex community can experience what East Sussex has to offer all year round.