“Charismatic” Irishman’s new sparkler is among England’s most expensive wines, says Barnaby Eales

The irresistible rise of English wine continues with the release of a new cuvée from the charismatic Dermot Sugrue – a direct descendant of the man who invented Duty Free.

Dr Brendan O’Regan

Sugrue’s coveted wines have earned him a reputation as a leader in the burgeoning English wine scene. His Dr Brendan O’Regan is a multi-vintage prestige cuvee priced at £79 ($104). That puts it in the top price league of the country’s sparkling wines: it is topped by Chapel Down’s Kit’s Coty Coeur de Cuvée at £100 ($130), and Nyetimber’s £75 ($98) single-vineyard Tillington.

“I can declare that it is the most profound, complex and rewarding English sparkling wine I have ever had the pleasure of encountering,” prominent wine critic Matthew Jukes said. Others are equally unstinting in their praise.

Sugrue has made the wine from Sussex-grown grapes under his own label, Sugrue Pierre. It is named after his grand-uncle, an entrepeneur who developed the idea of Duty Free (and also – rumour has it – the Irish Coffee).

“In 1947 my grand-uncle, Dr Brendan O’Regan, established the world’s first Duty Free at Shannon Airport, Ireland. He was a visionary man whose enterprise and initiative were the first steps in the creation of the global Duty Free industry we now have today,” he says on his website.

Sugrue makes wine for several English vineyards. He started making wine for the Goring family at the Wiston Estate, located on the chalk-soil terroir of the rolling South Downs range in West Sussex, 11 years ago, after a stint as head winemaker at another major English producer, Nyetimber.

Dermot Sugrue, and assistants

His winemaking trajectory runs parallel to the irresistible rise of English wine. English sparkling wines are now recognised internationally as of global importance. English still wine has been slow to catch up but critics are increasingly noting very fine examples of white wines, as well as pinot noir.

About two-thirds of the bottles produced annually in Britain is sparkling, made from the Champagne varieties chardonnay, pinot noir and pinot meunier.

Blanc de Blancs made from chardonnay have done particularly well in Southern England’s cool climate.

With more than 500 vineyards and about a million vines being planted this year, the growth of the English and Welsh wine industry to more than 4m bottles in 2016, has encouraged the development of wine tourism.

Wiston Estate is the latest vineyard to open its doors to visitors. In August it launched its new flint-built tasting house, the Wine Barn (main pic).

It stands below the estate’s vineyards in the heart of the rolling South Downs, known to be among the sunniest parts of England.

The new tasting house is part of a major expansion programme at Wiston, including new plantings of chardonnay and pinot noir at two new sites on the estate.

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