Sussex is famous for many things. The Royal Pavilion at Brighton, the Long Man of Wilmington, and Bodiam Castle (pictured). Its is also (weirdly) where banoffee pie was first created in 1972. If these things are not enough to show Sussex as exemplary, then why not Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) status for it’s wines?
A few days ago Decanter Magazine reported that English wine producers are making a bid to obtain PDO status for wineries in Sussex. PDO would bring them the same protected status as wines from Champagne.
PDO is the most prestigious of the three geographical indications offered by the European Union for the protection and promotion of agricultural products. The other two are Protected Geographical Indication (PGI), and Traditional Specialities Guaranteed (TSG).
PDO is the strictest designation. It states that a product has been entirely produced within a region that gives the product unique properties. For example, beef produced wholly on Orkney has PDO status and can be labelled as Orkney beef. Beef produced in Scotland, including from Orkney, has PGI status and is labelled Scotch beef. So If the beef comes from cows raised in Orkney, but is prepared in the Outer Hebrides, it can only have Scotch beef PGI status as it wasn’t wholly produced on Orkney.
The UK already has 65 products with protected status. Far less than Portugal (125), France (217) and Italy (267). If successful, Sussex wine would join PDO holders such as Native Shetland Wool, Jersey Royal Potatoes and our favourite cheese, Swaledale. Given that English wine has already been granted a PDO, what advantage does a Sussex PDO designation bring?
Well, English wine may be enjoying its most successful years, but presumably it’s easier to market Sussex sparkling wine rather than English sparkling wine. For example, ordering a bottle of Sussex in a restaurant sounds more pleasing than ordering a bottle of English…
And why not have a go! English sparkling wines have been racking up the awards. In the 2014 International Wine Challenge competition they were awarded 5 gold medals and two trophies. Obtaining PDO status would be another big boost to the reputation of wines produced in Sussex, and England in general.
It is perhaps debatable how the varying landscape of Sussex can be realistically expected to imbue the geographical characteristics a PDO is meant to guarantee. But with the English wine retail sector forecast to hit £100m this year, and the number of wineries in the UK at an all time high, this latest PDO is clear evidence of a confident market.
Interestingly Nyetimber, one of the most famous UK producers, has two thirds of its vineyards in Sussex and a third in Hampshire, and so would be excluded from applying the PDO designation to its’ products.