Nick Mosley talks to Simon Roberts, head winemaker at Sussex’s award winning Ridgeview Wine Estate in Ditchling.
Tell us a bit about your background and how you got into winemaking?
When I was younger I developed a real passion for sailing and followed this to study Marine Engineering. While I was away at college, my parents decided to venture into winemaking, at a time sparkling wine making in England was relatively unheard of. We found a perfect site nestled on the base of the South Downs near the beautiful village of Ditchling and Ridgeview began. What started as helping out in the vineyard when I was home from college soon developed into a passion for our family project. I retrained in winemaking at Plumpton College and have been at Ridgeview for 22 years now as Head Winemaker supported by a fantastic team.
To date what are your proudest achievements at Ridgeview?
It’s hard to choose, there have been so many proud moments, but it’s between winning the Trophy for the World’s Best Sparkling Wine at the Decanter World Wine Awards in 2006 or when my Dad was awarded an MBE for his contribution to English Wine. Both incredibly proud moments for us to share as family.
I hear you are now exporting?
The day after we won the trophy for the World’s Best Sparkling, the phone was literally ringing off the hook with opportunities from around the world. We took our care in selecting countries that we thought would be successful and we now sell to 15 growing markets around the world with the USA leading the charge, closely followed by Scandinavia.
What’s planned next for Ridgeview over the next five years?
Our biggest challenge at the moment is keeping up with the growing demand for our wine. We have plans to increase our production from the current 250,000 per annum to 450,000 over the next five years. In order to do this, we will be building a new winery during 2018 and increasing our partnership vineyards over the coming years
How do you feel about the Champagne houses now planting in the UK?
Considering we were one of the first to go down the route of making traditional method sparkling wine from Champagne grape varieties in the UK, it is a wonderful compliment 20 years later that the Champagne houses can also see the potential in Southern England of cool climate wine making. It also makes us reaffirm our tactics of increasing export opportunities to spread the risk of sharing future market opportunities.
What do you like to do when you are not making wine?
I love cooking, so I am generally chef of the house or enjoy dining out with my family. I have also kept my interest in sailing and enjoy Sunday’s spent sailing with a crew in Shoreham. I also enjoy loud music and getting to gigs when I can.
What will you be drinking for Christmas day?
Ridgeview of course! We are lucky to have access to ‘the family cellar’ which contains rare back vintages that we all like to try, to see how these wines are aging. To serve with our ‘Copas’ turkey we will generally have our Blanc de Noirs or another Pinot based wine.
What are some of your favourite restaurants in Brighton serving Ridgeview?
That’s a hard question as there are so many to choose from. We just had our Christmas party at Matt Gillan’s fantastic restaurant Pike and Pine, we love 64 Degrees, The Gingerman is a firm favourite, The Set is a go to restaurant and the Chilli Pickle for curry. I am also looking forward to checking out Etch shortly as Steve’s pop ups were great.