Is Sugrue England’s best sparkling wine? Obviously tastes are personal and vintages vary, but the consistently high scores and rave reviews achieved for each wine released suggest that it is certainly a contender for that title.
“Dermot Sugrue is the best winemaker in England.” Steven Spurrier, June 2018
“DWWA Trophy winning winemaker Dermot Sugrue’s wines are consistently exceptional” Susie Barrie, MW
“Spectacular. Honestly England’s best.” Sir Hugh Johnson OBE on Sugrue Cuvée Dr Brendan O’Regan, July 2018
“I can declare that Sugrue ‘Cuvée Dr Brendan O’Regan’ is the most profound, complex and rewarding English sparkling wine I have ever had the pleasure of encountering.” Matthew Jukes, August 2017
“The lingering, bracing, lemon biscuit flavours make this one of the best English sparklers yet” Jane MacQuitty, The Sunday Times August 2013
A lemony spear of sunlight charged with the bracing freshness of the clearest skies. I’ve already bought a case of this sheer brilliance.” Olly Smith on Sugrue The Trouble with Dreams 2010
“Incredible, highly complex wine. With a tiny production and handmade feel throughout, this is a spellbinding wine and one which will woo everyone who tastes it.” Matthew Jukes, May 2013
In 2006, acclaimed winemaker Dermot Sugrue planted at Storrington Priory, a small vineyard at the foot of the South Downs. The first release of Sugrue was ‘The Trouble with Dreams’ 2009 vintage which went on sale in 2013, rapidly gaining critical acclaim.
The 2010 (now also available in limited-release magnum) and 2011 (now sold out) followed and then the 2013. All current vintages are on sale here, but note that 2011 is now sold out and remaining quantities of the 2009 and 2010 especially are limited; like most UK vineyards, there was no 2012 vintage.
Early vintages used grapes from Storrington Priory, grapes from Mount Harry Vineyard now form an increasing portion of the blend.
In 2017, Dermot released Cuvée Dr Brendan O’Regan, a very special, and very emotional family project; a tribute to his granduncle who invented Duty Free.
Some years after a degree in Environmental Sciences at the University of East Anglia, Dermot studied Viticulture and Oenology at Plumpton College, Sussex.
Following vintages in the UK he completed two seasons working in Bordeaux, at Chateau l’Eglise-Clinet, Pomerol and Chateau Leoville-Barton, St Julien. He joined Nyetimber in 2003 and was appointed Winemaker in 2004. Over the following years he oversaw Nyetimber’s emergence as one of the world’s greatest sparkling wine producers.
He worked the 2006 vintage in Champagne for Jacquinot & Fils before joining Harry and Pip Goring to set up Wiston Estate winery, which is where he also crafts Sugrue. Dermot is also the winemaker for a number of highly respected wines produced under contract at Wiston, including Digby Fine English, Jenkyn Place and new producer Black Dog Hill as well as a good number of others.
If you would like to read more about winemaker Dermot, the “creator of cult fizz Sugrue”, this article by Annie Krebiehl MW gives a few hints about what makes him tick, or read below, from the horse’s mouth itself.
“When I planted the one hectare vineyard at Storrington Priory in 2006, for several years I had no idea how significant the wines from this small plot would turn out to be. The first harvest in 2008 was devastated by birds the night before we gathered to pick it, so the omens were not good for future vintages. However I knew it was a piece of land with great potential to make a single vineyard wine; it combined two great soil types – chalk and greensand – had great sun exposure and was well protected from howling, hazardous winds. The east-west orientation of the vines is unusual here at Storrington and different to almost all other English vineyards, a point of contrast I never really considered until the quality of the wines started to become evident.
The approach is simple, and always has been: meticulous attention to detail in the vineyard, always trying to maintain a good sense of humour when the weather wreaks havoc – which it always, always does – and having the nerve and patience to withhold picking until something near full ripeness is achieved. Then a very light touch in the winery: extremely gentle pressing, followed by slow fermentation and maturation in old Burgundian barrels and stainless steel. The emphasis is always on retaining the precision of the fruit when using barrels, it’s a fine line between the textural improvements that happen inside the barrel and the slow micro-oxidation through the barrel staves that gently polish the wines and allow the nuances to arrive and develop.
Bottling without filtration can be risky, but it seems to suit the style of Sugrue very well, giving a sense of completeness and energy to the wine. It’s an approach that has worked amazingly well for the first three vintages, the 2009, 2010 and 2011, each wine delivering unique characteristics but maintaining a signature, Storrington, style.
When I had the chance to take on the exceptional Mount Harry vineyard near Lewes in 2013, I jumped at the opportunity. Planted in the same year as Storrington, in 2006, but entirely on South Downs chalk, this two and a half hectare site is surely one of the best in the UK…. and the 2013 vintage proved it. Mount Harry makes up most of the blend in the 2013 Trouble With Dreams, again a 60% Chardonnay 40% Pinot assemblage like the previous Storrington-only vintages. But the Mount Harry fruit delivers something more, a driving sense of purity which gives impeccable poise and definition to wines, a sense of volume and weight that somehow retains an aerial component, a finesse atop the solidity of fruit that was immediately obvious. The combination of the two vineyards is a marriage made in Sussex, a synergy that links the two sites even if they are 26 miles apart.
Sugrue The Trouble With Dreams is a simple concept: one wine per annum, Chardonnay dominant, that expresses itself freely and without force; a wine that every year is allowed to be what it wants to be. Allowed to wander and roam it always surprises. A wine that somehow designs itself, from one year to the next.” Dermot Sugrue, March 2017.