We hope you and your families have managed to get together to celebrate over Christmas. As for many, January is the time of year when we can draw breath, pause a little to reflect on the past year and build plans for the next.
The past 12 months have not been without their challenges, however, in many ways we’ve had a good year. Our sales have shown strong growth, driven by increased website and Cellar Door sales as well as a recovery in the local independent off-licences, restaurants and pubs we supply. COVID appears to have accelerated the growing interest in local food and drink as well as encouraging visitors to outdoor rural venues such as vineyards. This, combined with ‘work from home’ and ‘holiday at home’ lifestyles kept us very busy over the summer and it was a pleasure to welcome so many of you to our new Tasting Room. It was also great to see so many enjoying our vineyard picnics in the summer sun (when it shone!) surrounded by the vines and beautiful views.
Working with local partners……
A key part of last year has been building our partnerships with other local businesses. We have thoroughly enjoyed working with a fantastic range of high quality local suppliers to offer delicious Sussex food to sample alongside our wines. The Sussex Kitchen and Smorl’s of Brighton provided much of the ingredients for our vineyard picnics whilst The Cheeseman, The Great British Charcuterie and Beal’s Farm kept our cheese and charcuterie sharing boards stocked with a fantastic selection of Sussex produce.
We also hosted an eclectic mix of local ‘street food’ chefs for our Friday Night Supper Clubs including curry courtesy of The Chilli Shaak, pizza from Safari Pizza and sustainably-sourced fish dinners from Fins and Forks and Olly’s Fish Shack. We look forward to working with these partners and others in 2022, continuing to celebrate the amazing food that Sussex has to offer.
The highs and the lows…..
Other highlights of 2021 were the launch of a very popular new still wine – our super-pale, elegant and dry Sussex Rosé – as well as the second vintage of our Red Pinot Noir and our ‘ever-so-lightly’ sparkling Bacchus Frizzante.
On the downside, we’ve really struggled, like others, with supply chain issues, labour shortages and the vagaries of the English climate. The extremely wet summer of 2021 resulted in a small harvest across Northern Europe. Growing grapes in the UK’s marginal climate was always going to be high risk, and going forward we need to build greater resilience into our business, especially against the more extreme impacts of weather resulting from global warming.
A key driver of carbon emissions for wine producers, which we’ve mentioned previously, is the glass wine bottle. This is the major source of our carbon emissions and is a tough one to address. Re-use, recycling, the use of renewable energy sources for glass furnaces and moves to non-glass wine packaging options will only partly mitigate this. Therefore we have taken a fundamental decision NOT to expand vineyard planting and wine production any further. Keeping to our current size, will enable us to offset all our own carbon emissions by planting trees on a significant area our Estate’s grassland which we will commence in 2022. Visitors will be able to join us in enjoying the growth of this woodland. Our tree planting, together with other carbon reduction initiatives should enable us to meet and exceed our Net Zero targets in the years to come.None of this would be possible without the amazing support of our customers….thank you!In 2022, we will continue to strive to offer you the best of Sussex wine and food to be enjoyed in the incomparable surroundings of our Tasting Room and vineyard. We look forward to welcoming as many of you as possible.