SUSSEX PDO- Increased standards??
There has been a debate as to whether SUSSEX should declare independence and become a PDO (Protected Designation of Origin) in its own right. This would mean that it would police its own standards, apart from those of the UKVA.
The E.U. definition of such a designation of origin means the name of a region, a specific place or, in exceptional cases, a country used to describe a product referred to in Article 118a(1) that complies with the following requirements:
its quality and characteristics are essentially or exclusively due to a particular geographical environment with its inherent natural and human factors;
the grapes from which it is produced come exclusively from this geographical area;
its production takes place in this geographical area; and
it is obtained from vine varieties belonging to Vitis vinifera;
Such designations already are in place include Stilton Cheese.
In wine terms could imply that the wines should be:
- Made totally from grapes made in Sussex
- Made at wineries sited within Sussex
- Exclude wineries too small to afford a levy
- Sufficiently distinctive from other UK wines (e.g. such as Bordeaux differs from Burgundy)
- produced, processed and prepared in a given geographical area, using recognized know-how
For Sussex, it would imply that the Terroir and the wines was distinctive. The producers, who include some of the most prestigious names in the UK industry include Nyetimber and Ridgview, the
latter whose wines are regularly served at Royal Banquets. The wine makers believe that to create a PDO will raise the standards of wine making in the area, so that eventually, several other counties will
look to create their own PDO.
The scheme would not be compulsory for producers. Sam Linter of Bolney went to Brussels to consult the experts and reported They told us that Sussex wine producers who do not participate in the Sussex PDO scheme
can mention that they
make wine in Sussex and from Sussex grapes and put their address on the label. Even wine makers outside of Sussex who make wine from Sussex grapes can continue to reference that fact, however, what they can't
do is mislead the consumer
and call the wine a 'Sussex Wine' unless it has passed the Sussex PDO.
Sam also notes that With regard to the Sussex PDO scheme - the rules are much stricter than the existing English PDO, in particular for; SO2, VA, Copper levels and minimum natural alcohol levels and especially
the Qualitative Assessment (QA),
which will be carried out by Campden BRI. All of this was recommended by Geoff Taylor, who has been actively involved in the drafting of the PDO and will act as the scheme manager.
The QAs will take place monthly and is much stricter than the no-faults tasting test which just requires one person out of five to agree that the wine is acceptable for it to be classed as a Quality English Wine.
The main problem as outlined by wine expert Stephen Skelton, is that of dealing with failed or failing wines. The standard is set at a monthly tasting. After that, a consultant, chosen by the winemaker,
will review any wine rejected and remedial action may be suggested. If the wine is rejected for a second time the winery must not dispose of the wine (finished or unfinished) in any way that could jeopardise
the Sussex sparkling wine name. Skelton points out that the vineyard has the problem of selling the failed wine- presumably at a lower price. Advice from continental PDOs is obviously needed on this.
The other problem he points out is that the Sussex PDO organisers need teeth to enforce their rules. This means an administrator and an accepted means of sanction.
Will it be effective
This is a good idea to raise standards, but in the end, it may all come down to money. It is also all down to the old maxim - Its the customer stupid. It will increase the price of the wine- will the customer be prepared to
pay an increase from, say, £25 a bottle to
£35 a bottle. If so fine. If not- and only a marketing and hindsight survey will so determine, is there a point to the exercise?
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