Discovering the story of English sparkling wine

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Visit a family-owned vineyard in Sussex where fizz fit for royalty is made

Picture the terrace of a beautiful cafe, where people are sipping sparkling wine, overlooking rows of Chardonnay vines growing on the slopes within beautiful, unspoilt countryside. It’s an idyllic scene, but where is it? France, South Africa, New Zealand?

Think again - it’s in gorgeous Sussex amidst the South Downs National Park.

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This is the location of the renowned Ridgeview Wine Estate which produces its internationally-renowned and award-winning sparkling wine.

Experience wine-tasting at the estateExperience wine-tasting at the estate
Experience wine-tasting at the estate

Fast becoming a must-visit tourist destination in the area, the family-owned vineyard is 50 minutes from London and 20 minutes from Brighton and Gatwick Airport, which brings in many foreign visitors.

Incidentally the estate, in Ditchling, is just 90 miles as the crow flies from Champagne itself. Ridgeview uses the same grape varieties as for Champers - Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier - and uses the same production methods.

Taking one of the wine tasting tours you can learn that sparkling wines have, in fact, been produced this way in England for over 350 years, longer than Champagne in fact!

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Ridgeview was established by the Roberts family in 1995 and in 15 years of sales the vineyard has been awarded numerous trophies including the best sparkling wine in the Decanter World Wine Awards 2010. This fine fizz was served at the late Queen’s official Diamond Jubilee celebrations and was also served to President Obama for his state banquet held at Buckingham Palace.

Veraison - the Chardonnay vines in August at Ridgeview. photo ©Julia ClaxtonVeraison - the Chardonnay vines in August at Ridgeview. photo ©Julia Claxton
Veraison - the Chardonnay vines in August at Ridgeview. photo ©Julia Claxton

This year has seen the estate’s biggest harvest yet. According to Mardi Roberts, communications manager and wife of Simon Roberts, head winemaker, it was not until September’s unexpected ‘fresh’ sunshine that the grapes finally ripened to perfection. Simon’s father Mike founded the business with wife Christine after discovering this stunning site.

Mardi added: “We are really proud of the fact that Ridgeview was one of the first to plant for sparkling wines in the UK. It was my parents-in-law’s dream.”

This is truly a family business and the passion shines through. It is growing all the time and a new dining experience opens soon in addition to the al fresco, small plates cafe Rows and Vine.

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Ridgeview was also the first to build underground wine cellars and they are vast. It was fascinating to watch the process as the 2023 harvest started on its way to wine, which includes a double fermentation - first in vats and then in the bottle. There’s storage for 700,000 bottles in just the right conditions.

The Rows and Vine al fresco restaurant (photo: Xavier D. Buendia)The Rows and Vine al fresco restaurant (photo: Xavier D. Buendia)
The Rows and Vine al fresco restaurant (photo: Xavier D. Buendia)

For more information about the Ridgeview Wine Estate and to book experiences such as festive cheese and wine pairing during December (one hour, £35) or a relaxed wine tasting (30 mins, £15), visit

The South Downs National Park is the newest of the UK’s 15 National Parks, established in March 2010. In 2016 the national park was granted International Dark Sky Reserve status, making it one of the best places in the country to view the night sky. For more information, visit

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