Sussex wine tour: Your five-day itinerary

Dining by the vines at Rathfinny Estate, near AlfristonDining by the vines at Rathfinny Estate, near Alfriston

English sparkling wines are starting to command the attention they deserve, on restaurant lists and shop shelves, with the message hitting home that these are wines to take just as seriously as Champagne. And there’s no better way of taking a deep dive into the current scene than spending time in English wine country.

Sussex is an ideal destination – two years ago it became the first area in England (combining the counties of East Sussex and West Sussex) to gain appellation status – as a Protected Designation of Origin (PDO). It accounts for more than a quarter of England’s vineyard plantings, and is home to wineries large and small, new and long-established. Many are located in or near the South Downs national park or a ‘national landscape’ (what was previously known as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty), and the south coast is nearby.

Sussex East and West lie within easy reach of London, and have a burgeoning wine tourism offering, promoted effectively by Sussex Modern, an independent consortium of businesses set on switching the tourism narrative away from sleepy villages and coastal retirement towns to destinations that provide a vibrant culture, high-quality wine and/or world- class art, all within breathtaking landscapes.

It’s possible to visit for just a day or two, but the developments here merit so much longer. Even this five-day itinerary, which starts in West Sussex and ends on the Sussex/Kent border in the east, omits several names that are equally visit-worthy. But it’s an exciting taster.

Illustrated map of Sussex wine tour

Credit: JP Map Graphics Ltd

Your Sussex wine tour itinerary
Day 1

Start the adventure at Ashling Park, a 10-minute drive from the historic market town of Chichester. This slick operation, UK Cellar Door of the Year runner-up in the 2023 Decanter Retailer Awards, takes both wine tourism and its wines seriously. Owner Gail Gardner’s family has lived on the estate for 30 years, and it took four years to get planning permission for the venture, as it lies within the South Downs national park. The sparkling wines – don’t miss the cherry- and marzipan-scented rose? and the limey, toasty blanc de blancs – are made at Wiston Estate, with experienced winemaker Dermot Sugrue consulting (even though he has now left Wiston and set up on his own). Taste the estate’s wines and spirits on one of the tours and tastings while soaking up the Napa-like atmosphere. The glass, steel and wood-fronted main building houses a restaurant with terrace and vineyard views, as well as a shop, tasting room and gin school. If you arrive the night before, there are five one- and two-bedroom luxury lodges on site.

A 15-minute drive away on the other side of Chichester is Tinwood. The estate’s Dutch founders made their fortune growing Iceberg lettuce, before their son switched to wine-growing in 2007, the year after he took over the reins. The sparkling wines, all vintage, can be tasted alongside tapas-style dishes from the new Vineyard Kitchen. The tourism offering is the strong suit here; as well as ‘sparkling afternoon teas’, dinners and a harvest experience, the calendar includes outdoor cinema events and yoga in the vines. Eight lodges, most new this season, enjoy views directly onto the vineyard.

Grazing platter of food


But visitors to the area really shouldn’t miss a stay at The Pig in the South Downs, 13km away. The Pig hotel group is aimed firmly at wine and food lovers, and despite offering chic accommodation in beautiful English country houses, it styles itself as ‘restaurant with rooms’, as the food and wine really are the main event. Opened three years ago, this particular Pig has 28 rooms, five in the main house and others dotted around the grounds. The restaurant is in a light, airy conservatory overlooking the Downs, and serves the highest-quality local produce, much of it grown by the hotel itself in its incredible kitchen gardens.

A vineyard across the road…

Source : https://www.decanter.com/wine/sussex-wine-tour-your-five-day-itinerary-530297/