- July 2, 2018
With so many of us making the choice to buy organic foods on a regular basis it seemed an appropriate time to visit an organic vineyard here in Sussex. Growing vines, in what in the wine industry is classified as a “cold climate”, is not easy and not without risks. But as we know Sussex wines, in particular sparkling wines, are grabbing the attention of the experts and winning international awards.
Over at Oxney Organic Estate Kristin Syltevik and her small team are doing just that, growing organic grapes, making sparkling wines and achieving great acclaim. I went over to visit on what was a rather dull and drizzly day, but it didn’t detract from the experience as Kristin guided us around the vines, explaining what they have to do to simply grow the grapes required and stay true the Soil Association’s rules to achieve organic status.
But they are not the only confines that can affect the business, weather can be a real issue, a late frost can seriously affect the final crop, weeds too are a problem, and deer. The estate has now been surrounded by a deer-proof fence, although somehow they still manage from time to time to get through and reek havoc.
Oxney – a sophisticated sparkler
Kristin initially planted two classic grape components of sparkling wines chardonnay and pinot meunier. But more recently she has added a third variety, seyval blanc. “The seyval was something of a controversial decision when we planted it, but it’s a sturdy vine that acts as a kind of insurance policy in years when the other two do not do so well.” A great decision given the quality of wines that are made using that grape in one of their blends.
Kristin’s background is not in wine making but in PR and marketing, and this shows in the quality of their branding. The design is smart and modern and in no way tries to imitate the labelling of champagne. The team at Oxney are proud of their very British wines, and rightly so. And after our walk through the vines we slipped inside to see the production side of the business before tasting the wines. We started with their Estate Rosé, a delicate and very approachable wine that is very sensibly priced. I do wonder why we are currently so obsessed with prosecco in this country? After the sparkling pink we tried their classic 2015 vintage, a little more expensive but worth every penny – a sophisticated sparkler that defines everything that is good about Sussex wines.
As well as making great wines the estate also hosts lots of special events, lunches and tours and there are even opportunities to stay over. For Kristin and her team this is clearly a passion, a risky one too, but one that is clearly paying off.
Hobbs Lane, Beckley, Rye, East Sussex TN31 6TU
01797 260137 firstname.lastname@example.org