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Burning Sky Blazing Bright

Mark Tranter had a dream of setting up his own brewery long before he established Burning Sky. His love of both hoppy pale ales and Belgium beer inspired him to leave Dark Star in 2013, after nearly 2 decades as a brewer, to start his own brewery which would focus on these styles. 10 years later Burning Sky is widely regarded as not only one of the best in Sussex but one of the best breweries and beer blenders in the UK and beyond. They are a working brewery, there are no tours or tap room at their brewery in Firle, constantly... Read More >

Game On

As the nights close in it’s time to get cozy next to a roaring fire and enjoy the richer things in life. Full bodied, decadent red wine and dark, sumptuous ales come into their own at this time of year. Just as the drinks we pour into our glasses get heavier so do the foods on our plate; fruity squashes, earthy mushrooms and dark hedgerow berries are all in their prime and so are the game meats that these delicacies are so often served alongside. Game meat tends not to be available in the supermarket but if you go to see... Read More >

All Change for Bordeaux

Bordeaux is a powerhouse in the wine world, it is the largest appellation in France, for both the volume and value of its wines. When the topic of red wine is discussed, it is impossible to ignore the region that so many others have looked to for inspiration, be that old school classic regions such as Rioja or Tuscany, or the new classics such as Napa Valley or the Western Cape. Whilst there is no doubt that Bordeaux is a touchstone of the wine world it is facing a barrage of challenges that are posing a serious threat to its future dominance... Read More >

South Downs Cellars - 20 years on

On 16th August 2003 Lucy opened the doors of South Downs Cellars in Hurstpierpoint. 20 years later the business has grown, a second shop opened in Lindfield nearly 13 years ago and there is a thriving wholesale business that supplies around 80 local restaurants and other trade accounts. To celebrate the 20th anniversary, we have 20% off 20 of our best-selling wines (to order online use code SDC20), as well as hosting a couple of tastings; one in Lindfield on Friday 11th August and one in Hurstpierpoint on Friday 18th August. You can book tickets through either shop, but tickets are... Read More >

Tequila or not tequila? That is the question.

Monday 24th July is National Tequila Day and we thought you might enjoy a few tequila facts and recommendations to help you get in the mood. Tequila is a type of Mezcal (which is a spirit made from any agave plant), and like wine, it has specific rules for its production. It is thought to have its origins in a drink called ‘pulque’, which has been made since 150BC. In Mexico there are 5 regional designations where tequila can be made: Guanajuato, Michoacán, Nayarit, Tamaulipas, and Jalisco, with Jalisco accounting for the majority of production. The types of soil that the agave... Read More >

Summer Roses

What is in a name? That which we call a rosé by any other word would taste as dry and refreshing...   Butchering Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet aside, the sun has finally arrived, and it is officially rosé time! Rosé wines are at their absolute best when the summer is filled with bright sunshine. Many peoples’ first thought when looking for a rosé are the wines of Provence, but there is so much more to discover for the adventurous taster. To help you make the most of our pink wines here is a selection of fantastic rosés, both still and sparkling, from around the... Read More >

Exploring the Language of Cider

With the arrival of Spring and the expectation that the sun will shine, we have refreshed our cider selection. We are delighted with the arrival of an exciting new range of ciders from a selection of fantastic craft cider producers. To help guide you through our new selection of ciders, our resident cider enthusiast, Ed, has put together a glossary of cider terminology. Bittersharp – Apples that are both high in tannins and high in acidity. These apples can be used to create well balanced vintage ciders that are capable of ageing without blending in any other type of cider apple. Examples... Read More >

Ribera del Duero

Ribera del Duero is situated on a plateau in the Castile and León provinces, a couple of hours drive directly north of Madrid. The name of the region translates as the Banks of the River Duero,  which is the same river known as the Douro in Portugal. It is one of Spain’s iconic wine regions, with its top producers famous worldwide for the quality and age-ability of their wines. Whilst some of the wines here can go for £100s a bottle there are still some great value wines available. The main grape varieties used in this region are Tempranillo for reds and Albillo... Read More >

It’s all a load of Biodynamics

What is the difference between biodynamic, organic and natural wine? This is a fairly common question in the shop so we thought it would be a good idea to give it a little focus in a blog. In our shops we have a "dotty" system on our labels to help you navigate your way through these wines. Our organic wines are signposted with a green dot, biodynamic wines a blue dot and natural wine an orange dot (not so relevant to this post but we also have yellow dots to show when a certain wine is vegan friendly). Organics Organic wine can only be made... Read More >

Low / No Alcohol Offerings

January is here and for some of us it is time to ease back on the booze after celebrating the festive period. Giving up booze for a few weeks is an easy decision for some but deciding what to drink in its place can be a bit trickier. Rather than reaching for an orange squash or yet another cup of tea why not try out something that feels a little more adult? Thanks to cultural change and technological improvements alcohol free drinks have improved dramatically over the last decade and now there is a great range of options out there for... Read More >

Food & Wine Matching - Christmas Edition

There are no hard and fast rules in food and wine pairing. Red with meat and white with fish is far too limiting when you consider the range of cuisines and drinks available today. We suggest that a better approach is to focus on the balance of your food and wine match but how do you go about achieving balance? Here are a few guidelines that will help you out as you try new food and drink combinations. When pairing food and drink a good general rule is to match the intensity and weight of the food with a wine that... Read More >

Le Beaujolais Nouveau est arrive!

Beaujolais Nouveau Day is the 3rd Thursday in November. It used to be that people would travel down to Beaujolais to buy their wine as soon as it was released and then race back home to be the first of their friends to have the wine on their table. These days that tradition has more or less faded but people still search out this light, fruity, easy drinking wine. The last few years has seen a resurgence of interest in the young wine, driven by a rise in quality. Beaujolais Nouveau is now sent to over 110 countries, most notably the... Read More >

SDC’s Man in the Field Part 1

Euan’s Harvest experience  Monday 26th Sep – Stopham – Bacchus Day Dear South Downs Cellars, my first day down at Stopham got off to a quick and early start. The pickers had been on the go for a little while placing the picked Bacchus grapes into 20kg crates spaced out under the vines. We wasted no time in moving the crates out ready for the tractor to come down the row, myself and another taking turns in picking the full crates up from under the vines and passing them to the other on the back of the ‘small’ trailer being pulled by the... Read More >

Rioja – The past, present and future

  The history of winemaking in Rioja, like so many of Europe’s wine regions, can be traced back to the Romans but it is its links to Bordeaux that really helped define the wines of Spain’s most famous wine appellation. In the second half of the 19th Century a vine disease called Phylloxera hit Europe, devastating many vineyards. When it impacted Bordeaux, killing many of the vines, the wine world had to look elsewhere for their age-worthy red wines. Various Bordelais decided to leave the area and start afresh on the other side of the Pyrenees, taking their winemaking skills and knowledge... Read More >

Orange Wine Time

No, it is not made with oranges. An orange wine is made like red wine but using white grapes, leaving the skins in contact with the juice to extract colour, tannin and flavour. Common flavour descriptors of orange wines include dried orange rind, bruised apple, jackfruit, juniper, sourdough, hazel nuts and linseed oil. They can be quite drying, having tannins like a red wine and it is not unusual for them to have a touch of sourness to them in a similar fashion to a sour beer. Finally, there is the funk that some, but not all, orange wines can display.... Read More >

The wide world of Californian Wine

When many people think of Californian wine, the first thing that pops into their head might be Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, it could be the Zinfandels made in Lodi or even the Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays found all along the North Coast. Whilst these 4 styles of wine are likely the most famous wines produced in the U.S.A. they are only a slice of what is produced. California produces over 80% of all U.S. wine and is the 4th largest wine producer in the world. There are over 110 different varieties of grape vine grown in California, giving wine makers plenty... Read More >

It's time to up the Chi-anti

The first friday of September celebrates National Chianti Day - this year it is Friday 2nd September. These beautiful Sangiovese-led wines are some of the most recognized red wines in the world, with up to 75 million litres produced every year – more than any other region in Italy.  To celebrate, here are some facts about the region and some delicious wines to enjoy. Grand Duke Cosimo Medici III, the longest-reigning leader in Tuscany history, established the original Chianti area in 1716. During the latter part of the 19th Century, Barone Ricasoli of Castello di Brolio established the blend of grapes used in... Read More >

It's all Greek to me..

Exploring Greek wine regions and grape varieties Greece has a fascinating and varied wine culture dating back thousands of years and has a diverse range of wine growing regions. The vast majority of its grape varieties are indigenous, which makes understanding Greek wine a little challenging but it is an effort well worth making. To help you begin exploring the various regions and grape types here are three wines from different areas and made using different grape varieties. 2021 Agiorgitiko Rose 4-6H, Gaia Wines, £14.95/bt We begin our journey in the Peloponnese, the most southern part of the Greek mainland and the historical homeland... Read More >

31 Days of Riesling

31 Days of Riesling The summer is upon us and it is time to break out one of our favourite grape varieties, the beautiful and occasionally misunderstood Riesling. From its ancestral home in Germany to the hills of Australia this beautiful grape variety produces wines in a wide range of styles and can reflect the terroir of where the grapes are grown in a way most other varieties cannot even dream of. On top of that, Riesling is downright delicious and is great for pairing with food! You do not have to take our word for it, the great Jancis Robinson describes... Read More >

The Extraordinary World of Pinot Noir

Pinot Noir is one of the world’s favorite grape varieties, with 285,000 acres (115,000 hectares) grown worldwide, as of 2018. In its spiritual home, Burgundy, it produces some of the most famous wines in the world, such as Nuits Saint Georges & Vosne Romanee. The small volumes produced of these famous Burgundy appellations has resulted in ever-increasing prices. Fear not intrepid Pinot Noir fans for Burgundy is not your only option. The ever popular Pinot Noir has spread all over the world, with each wine region that adopts it producing a unique expression of the grape variety. For those who are fans... Read More >

Exploring New Wines in 2022

One of the most exciting elements of working in the wine trade is getting the opportunity to taste new wines. It is a thrill when we find a wine that shines at a trade tasting. I can never wait to show it to customers who we know will enjoy our new star. This year the team at South Downs Cellars has been searching far and wide for your next favourite wine and we believe that we have found some real gems in the first couple of months of 2022. The organic, soon to be biodynamic, Domaine Capmartin definitely falls into the new... Read More >

Amundsen - Head & Shoulders

Amundsen Bryggeri is an Oslo-based brewery focused on producing craft beers of the highest quality for the non-conformists out there. Striving to innovate, be creative and create world-class beers from only the finest ingredients they can lay their hands on. Award-winning writer, photographer, and broadcaster Matthew Curtis sums up their bonkers but very popular Dessert in a Can (DIC) series: "I’ll freely admit the pastry stout phenomenon has passed me by. Call me old fashioned but my favourite beers are, in general, ones that taste like beer – like malt, hops, yeast and water. I enjoy it when brewers experiment with ingredients such... Read More >


So, it is December already. You would barely believe it but it really is.   It feels only yesterday that we sitting in our gardens, sipping rosé under the canopy of green leaves. But now, this has fallen to the ground, spreading instead a crunchy carpet of amber, gold and brown. So, it must be December. The Radio pumps out Christmas Classics, my living room is beginning to resemble a blinged-up black forest and people are beginning to ask me about Port. I miss the simplicity of rose; pale and dry or dark and sweeter. Whereas Port is a far more complex issue... Read More >

Exploring Europe’s new ‘Old World’ and ‘Ancient World’ wine regions

If you ask any vineyard owner if they have seen any evidence of climate change over the last few decades, the overwhelming majority will point to harvests getting earlier and earlier whilst facing an array of new challenges from late frosts damaging budding plants, to outbreaks of fires in wine regions and unpredictable storms bringing hail and flooding. One of the by-products of climate change is that not so long-ago England was not seen as producing any wines of interest, however we are now being recognised as one of the top places globally to produce sparkling wines. Pondering on these changes... Read More >


Where is the greatest white wine region in the world? There are so many wonderful places to choose between; the Loire produces fabulous Sauvignon and Chenin Blancs, Burgundy crafts world class Chardonnay, the Mosel is home to some of the greatest Rieslings produced in the world, Alto Adige is famous for its high quality Pinot Grigio, whilst Marlborough’s Sauvignon Blancs have proven themselves to be a modern classics. For me however the greatest white wine region is none of the above, it is the wonderful yet frustrating land of Alsace.  Alsace lies in the north east of France where the border meets... Read More >

Terroir: Inescapable Fact or Hocus Pocus Mumbo Jumbo Whiffle Whaffle

A recent article Wine Spectator reveals an Argentinian, scientific study which proves that the soils on which vineyards grow leave an indelible stamp on the wine produced in that place. Winemakers have been banging on about this for years. This conglomerate of affairs, the interplay of the vine with the weather, geology, natural habitat, even the gentle hand of the winemaker. This thing is called 'Terroir' and up until now has been more philosophy than fact. However, anyone who has ever had a glass of Chablis or Mosel Riesling can attest that there is definitely 'something' going on there. An undefined freshness which... Read More >

Screwing down the facts about screw tops

New Zealand has been championing the use of screw caps since it introduced the New Zealand Screwcap Wine Seal initiative in 2001, based on scientific research to reduce spoilage in their wines. 20 years on and the question of are screw caps as good as corks is still one that we are repeatedly asked in the shops. The answer is it depends on a range of factors but that screwcaps can often be the better choice as they have some great attributes that might make them the best choice for a winemaker, as well as being easier to open for the... Read More >

Wines for all Weathers

When I set out to write this, I was planning to talk about big wines for the big freeze of a fortnight ago. Powerful, dark Shiraz. Heady, perfumed Grenache. Zinfandel so warm and boozy that you could set fire to it. Then for a glorious weekend the sun appeared, and as I basked in its warmth I started to think about wines for spring. Fresh, grassy, Sauvignon Blanc, lunchtime Riesling and, of course, the ubiquitous rosé. Now the barometer that hangs on my kitchen wall has shifted again. The world outside is blustery, bright and busy. A stunning red-chested robin sings its... Read More >

Flipping out for Shrove Tuesday

Shrove Tuesday is approaching and the time for pancakes is nigh. In the Christian tradition pancakes are eaten in advance of the fasting of Lent, to use up food stuffs such as eggs, milk and butter that would be forbidden for the next 40 days. The history of pancakes, however, goes back to the Neolithic era and various forms of them can be found all over the world. Evidence suggests Otzi the Iceman, whose remains were discovered preserved in the Alps, ate a form of pancake as part of his last meal. The Romans ate them with honey, whilst the Elizabethans enjoyed... Read More >

ABC - A Blog for Christmas

  Does anyone remember when it was considered quite normal to walk up to a bar and order a glass of ABC? We are strangely fond of the anacronym in this country. ABC could, in this most wretched of years, stand for something else - America, Brexit, Co-Vid – perhaps, or possibly - Another Boris Cock-Up? - But, back in the early noughties when face masks were things that only the Chinese wore, and when tiers were usually debated within the context of a wedding cake, it meant; Anything But Chardonnay. Chardonnay. Arguably the most noble of white grapes. Those juicy blobs of... Read More >

Christmas Food & Wine Pairing with South Downs Cellars

What should you drink with your food this Christmas? With an abundance of food at the table, ranging from turkey to brussels sprouts, cranberry sauce to pigs in blankets, it can be a challenge to know what to drink with your lunch and then your leftovers. Do not worry because our Christmas offers at South Downs Cellars have you covered with a great range of deals. Whatever your tastes you should drink what you and those at your table enjoy. It does not matter how good a pairing is if you do not like the wine in the first place. There... Read More >

Home-made wine in 2020

Last year I made my first home made wine from grapes grown in a family greenhouse back in Bucks. It went well, I produced something that was pleasant to drink and as my Dad commented “it’s quite good for a first attempt.” As a result I was very excited to be looking after even more vines in 2020, with expectation of being able to make 2 or even 3 different wines this year. Everything started well, I pruned 15 vines in family gardens back in February and was eager to look after them in the coming growing season. Then March came... Read More >

Picnic Wines

I was recently thinking as I tried and failed to make a bottle of luke-warm Champagne stand up-right amongst the dirt and detritus of a Hampshire forest floor how different peoples’ definition of a picnic must be. It has been the year of the picnic more than any other perhaps and even though the Equinox is upon us it appears that the threat of not meeting indoors may give the picnic a lease of life, long into the autumn. For my parents and us growing up, a layby on the A303 high up on Bodmin Moo,r on the way to the annual family... Read More >

English Wineries Rise to the Challenge of Lock-Down

Since lock-down began the world and its businesses have seen wholesale change, and have had to adapt to the new “Coronavirus Normal”. Here at South Downs Cellars our On-Trade business dried up overnight, only to be replaced by exceptional demand for deliveries, and as we closed the doors to our shops the business transitioned online, creating a range of new challenges for us to face as a team. Whilst we continue to evolve in this ever-changing environment, with Click and Collect and service at the door, we are not the only aspect of the Drinks Industry facing these demanding times. For... Read More >

Corona Blog #2

The Corona Redemption I re-watched the classic Shawshank Redemption recently, one of the most quotable films of them all and one line in particular really hit home.       “Get busy living, or get busy dying." The sentiment brought to mind the attitude of some people and business I know. For some time I managed to shop only at my local fishmonger as he diversified his business. Fresh bread, pasta, pasta sauces, eggs, loo roll! Tonic water, beer and of course sensational fish. There is a hotel nearby which has erected a huge, roadside marquee which offers drive in burgers and chips. Top... Read More >

Isolation Blog

Each morning before my kids begin school (I am currently playing teacher, although apparently 'Mummy is headmistress') I play them the old Johnny Mercer classic where he croons 'You've got to accentuate the positive, eliminate the negative.' Sound words, especially for the now. The negatives are obvious for those who have become either isolated from, have been required to nurse or have even lost loved ones. For them, it will be hard to find positives if indeed there are any for some time and our thoughts and prayers are with them. For the lucky among us is however, not being to roam... Read More >

Wines of South America

The most important thing in a wine, as is the most important thing in most things; people, suspension bidges, or presidents - is integrity.         When we taste a wine we want it to answer questions. You profess to be Riesling, do you taste like a Riesling? You say Grand Cru on your label. Do you live up to those standards? You say you are a Prime Minister, do you display the necessary ability to carry your country through a crisis. Integrity, honesty, truth. They all matter.             South American wine does this better than most. The... Read More >

The Importance of Wine Fairs

We are often asked, “How many of these wines have you actually tried, then?” To which we reply, “Nearly all of them.” Hopefully, anyone who has seen our range will deduce that it’s not that our respective homes’ recycling bins are overflowing with green bottles, rather, that we are granted the opportunity to sample a little of all of them. These taster sessions can consist of individual wineries or suppliers popping into the stores with a selection of what they think might be of interest to us, but this usually totals no more than 12 wines.  For a larger, more ‘wholesale’ approach,... Read More >

The Wine Industry Post-Brexit...... probably

ACT ONE. Scene One. The year 2024. A Super Yacht. Behind it, the coastline of a post-Brexit dystopian Britain. Boris and Nigel drink wine. Nigel: Well, Boris. You've finally managed to negotiate a trade deal with the EU. A deal that's good for you, good for me and... well, that's about it. Boris: Fuff, fuff, fuff, well, err, thanks, what what what, fuff. Cheers! They toast. Boris: Yowza! Fruitier than a night out with boys at the Bullingdon Club! Nigel: Chateau Petrus 2022. It says in these tasting notes that after the April heatwave, the July frost, the August tornadoes and the plague of locusts at harvest,... Read More >

Merry Christmas to you all

"If I could work my will, every idiot who goes about with 'Merry Christmas' on his lips should be boiled with his own pudding and buried with a stake of holly through his heart!" Ebeneezer Scrooge  We love Christmas in our household. The tree goes up on the 1st of December, decorations too. Mince Pies and sherry are in constant supply throughout the month. Log fires, the smell of the tree, carol singing and clementines. It was, however, starting to feel as though some of the magic of present buying was dying out. Sitting in front of a computer screen, selecting presents... Read More >


It is a shame that there is sometimes to be discovered the sort of bickering between Regulatory bodies and Winemakers (see St. Emillon 2006) that makes a Saturday sitting in parliament look both sensible and civil. Things change, often they need to. Some people like it, some people don't. Decisions are made which are not always popular. If it all sounds a little too familiar then the question remains, do the changes improve things and by whose barometer? Time and history, as ever, will be the judge of that. Rioja, located in Northern Spain, is a wine producing region which boasts arguably... Read More >

Out of the darkness: The resurgence of the low ABV beer

Out of the darkness: The resurgence of the low ABV beer The eighties must have been dark times for the epicure. A Chicken Kiev matched with with a glass of Gallo Chardonnay was about as good as it got, and if gnawing on a slab of intensively battery-farmed meat, stuffed with can only be described as garlic chunder, covered in breadcrumbs all washed down with a weirdly sweet, but also astringent vanilla syrup was enough to make you avoid alcohol altogether then what were you left with? Kaliber. It is no wonder the adults of that generation seem to look upon drink... Read More >

Cantina Terlano (Cooperatives – Not a Dirty Word)

There is a scene in cult TV comedy series Blackadder when Steven Fry's incompetent General Melchett responds to Captain Blackadder's reaction to new military security measures by observing that “Security isn't a dirty word, Blackadder.” In the world of wine where snobbery can admittedly occasionally prevail, there has sometimes been a similar reaction reserved for wines produced by wine-making Cooperatives. Wine enthusiasts seem to migrate towards the great Chateaux, Domaines or Estates which are dominated by a single history, ideology and with a clear identity. Co-ops do not appear to match that brief. They usually function as a group of smaller vineyard... Read More >

Christmas Food & Wine Matching and some other stuff

  I am looking out of my window. The world stands as grey and bleak as the Commons debate on the radio. The brook that borders the end of my garden is grim and murky, like a Tory party take over bid. On the far side of it a cock pheasant hunkers down in the under-brush against the biting wind. I fancy even he is sick of Brexit. Some feathers are missing, perhaps evidence of a close encounter with a twelve-bore or one of the Sussex' countryside bushy-tailed friends, but these signs of battle only add to his wild beauty. The idea... Read More >

West-Midlands wonders, Coolship clock-watching, and Supermarkets stepping up their game? The Sussex Bottle Share.

Another round of the Sussex bottle share was hosted by yours truly and on this occasion, we had the pleasure of being joined by Janey; who had just ‘popped’ across the border from Wales. With her, came Deya. These relative newcomers have become hugely sought after not only for the high-profile collaborations with the likes of Beavertown, but the merits of their core range too. May a hushed silence fall upon those who argue the bubble around ‘craft’ has burst. ‘Hokum Stomp’ a 5.6% Oatmeal Porter and ‘My Phone's On Snooze’ a 3.5% Raspberry Berliner Weisse were the Deya beers we sampled... Read More >

Loire Valley

So, the dust has settled, the flags taken down, the beer rinsed out of your hair and the realisation has finally dawned that in fact football had about as much chance of coming home as a libidinous carrier pigeon on a stag weekend in Trafalgar Square. Back to wine then and specifically the Loire Valley. Understated, quietly confident and yet oozing real class. The Gareth Southgate of wine regions. Incidentally that probably makes Neymar the New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc of wines; immediately appealing and showy, but you get fed up with it pretty quickly. Much of the Loire brilliance is down to the... Read More >

English Wine Week 2018

The Cricket is on the radio. 'Tuffers' and 'Aggers' effuse their own special brand of entertaining gibberish, the soundtrack to an English summer. Outside, it is threatening to either break into blazing sunshine or pour down with torrential rain. It does not feel that long ago that the Sussex countryside was painted white by snow. Root wafts wildly outside off-stump, the commentators groan. It is overcast, the ball is swinging, it has been so dry that the pitch is cracked. It is not easy to bat in these conditions, it is even harder to make wine. You have to be a... Read More >

Happy Sauvignon Blanc Day!

Happy Sauvignon Blanc Day Somewhere in a factory in China there is a fat man in a shell suit, listening to one of his many copies of Tony Basi's 'Mickey' whilst shedding tears into boxes of about a trillion fidget spinners wondering where it all went wrong. Some fads last, some do not. I suppose if they do then they are not necessarily fads, what does that make them? Crazes? Obsessions? Ultimately fashion. I bet he wishes he had bought a vineyard in Marlborough.  The continued success of the Sauvignon Blanc grape is largely due to its unique character, particularly its aroma. That... Read More >

Gin Explosion - 2

Gin Explosion 2 When a friend politely asked if she could have some help shifting a bit of equipment for their new garage distillery I, with a natural interest in these kinds of shenanigans, jumped at the chance. It was only later as I struggled under the weight of a 250 litre copper still, trying to move it inches closer to its desired location whilst some uncomfortable metallic fitting lodged itself firmly between my botanicals that couple of things occurred to me. Firstly, that any small slip would probably lead to serious damage to both equipment and quite possibly friendship, but secondly how far... Read More >

Sussex Bottle Share - part 2

This feels all too familiar… freezing temperatures, a light dusting of white to hide the green, and me losing the feeling in my extremities. Nevertheless, I wanted to update you on the third Sussex Bottle Share which was held at The Malt Shovel in Horsham. A tighter clutch of enthusiasts this time but with one notable addition: Rach Smith (@lookatbrew), Beer Blogger and founder of the Sussex Bottle Share was in attendance and able to enjoy the delights the group had presented. We began with two Belgian beers, a Rodenbach Alexander and an Oude Geuze Boon. The first being an oak-aged red... Read More >

Sussex Bottle Share

I’m writing to you today from the recesses of the Lindfield shop, hunched over a desk with a heated electric fan around 12 inches from my face, desperately hoping to see a pinky hue return to these rigid fingers. That’s right; it’s our bi-yearly, week long, deep freeze. It’s comically cold out there, and as you’ve probably heard James and I whinge, “not much warmer in here!”, so why the dedication to get this out to you? Well! On the 22nd of February we had the privilege of hosting the monthly Sussex Bottle Share. This event, organised by a group of passionate... Read More >

Vegan Wine Blog

You could walk into a shop to buy some perfume, put it in a plastic bag and pay for it with a five pound note quite unaware that the perfume, bag, money and even right down to the crayon you grabbed from your child's colouring box to write the shopping list all potentially contain animal products. But more and more of us are becoming aware, and a lot of us are not happy about it. You also may or not be familiar with the use of animal products in wine. Principally as fining agents which include bone marrow, milk protein, crab... Read More >

Happy Christmas

I was halfway through watching my youngest daughter's Nativity performance when a microphone malfunction resulted in a noise which can only be described as flatulent echoing throughout the school hall. The angels were shocked, most of the sheep collapsed in hysterical laughter and the innkeeper was reduced to tears. As teachers set about repairing the chaos and the Head Mistress glared accusingly at those she suspected of not setting their phones to aeroplane mode, my mind turned to wine.    There are certain scenarios, often predictable, that arise at this time of year. A chaotic nativity performance, a Christmas Day kitchen disaster, or... Read More >

Bring On The Beer Advent Calendar

It would not have been that long ago that the idea of a Beer Advent Calendar would have filled me with dread. Just imagine stumbling downstairs in the morning to expectantly open that little cardboard door only discover that lurking behind it was the disappointment of yet another can of Skol. Not conducive to a Merry Christmas or indeed a Happy New Year.   Thank goodness the world has moved on. England are going to win The Ashes in Australia, the X-Factor just seems to get better with age and Brexit talks are moving smoothly and amicably forward.  Hang on.... So the world... Read More >

The Everyday Sophistication of the Rhône

It is that time of year. The smell of log fires waft through the cooler evening air, venison starts to appear on pub menus, daft, young game birds play chicken with oncoming traffic on the country roads whilst my pigs grunt with contentment in their oak woodland; snuffling up the acorns that throw themselves to their inevitable doom like nutty lemmings off a cliff. It is the time of year when my mind turns to the wines of The Rhone. The wines of the region seem to pair so naturally the foods of this particular season as anyone who has ever dribbled like a... Read More >

A Journey Through Burgundy

It is a funny thing that when enjoying wine, good wine that is, (not chuck it down your throat and hope it doesn't hurt to much in the morning kind of stuff that your Mother-in-Law might attempt to poison you with at a family get together) that we have to try and define it. We do that weird thing when we try and compare a wines flavour profile to fruits other than grapes. Or even to raw materials, inanimate objects, pieces of classical music, the hind legs of a randy Badger. The more outlandish it seems the better, we even make up words... Read More >


It was not long ago that the Tour de France was weaving its Erythropoietin-infused way amongst the Lavender, Juniper and Rosemary splattered landscape of Provence whilst the cicadas cheered them on their merry way. Meanwhile, back home, sweaty, middle-aged men donned the Lycra and went puffing about the South Downs imagining they were Chris Froome. They were not. They were offering imitations of Mr. Blobby on wheels, perspiring last night's pints of Stella.  Of course, their efforts are thoroughly commendable, though Ditchling Beacon is hardly Mont Ventoux. After all it is pretty impossible to transport the natural beauty of one part of... Read More >

A love letter to sherry...

A have a friend. Kind fellow, charming family, cooks a tremendous rib of beef and harbours a penchant for the wines of Ribera del Duero that verges on the perverted. It was a Sunday, some while back now, when he pointed towards the kitchen clock which read midday and remarked casually "It's sherry O'Clock." You can probably understand why we get on. I now rarely prepare a Sunday roast without glass of cold Fino in hand. Fino sherry should be treated in the same manner as white wine for it has been protected from oxidation by a delicate layer of surface yeast... Read More >

South Africa

There cannot be many things that are worse than boring wine. Nuclear war perhaps, or kneeling on a small piece of Lego. Sadly however, the world is flooded with the stuff. It would be easy to blame the supermarkets but  they do not necessarily force people to buy millions of gallons of generic cats pee on a gooseberry bush Sauvignon Blanc, or the countless pointless bottles of  Pinot Grigio that at least have the good grace to taste of nothing at all and it is not only this sort of wine that should be held to account for being dull. There... Read More >

Spain Beyond Rioja

Spain Beyond Rioja (four other regions to be reckoned with) I have just written down all the Spanish DOs that I could think of in three minutes. I got to forty-three which you might think is pretty good, although I did generously allow myself five points for writing ‘the ones that start with Pago’ and besides I am supposed to know about this stuff. In reality there are nearly a hundred, possibly by the time of publishing more, as they seem to invent them by the hour.     Looking at a list there are a handful that I knew but didn’t get, a... Read More >


  A darkness is descending. Bridges have been burnt, promises broken (350 million of them) and walls have been built (well maybe, not quite, perhaps... actually just a nice picket fence will do). After all the surprises of 2016, I predict this for 2017: that nobody can predict what is going to happen this year. I firmly believe that this is one thing we can all be absolutely sure of. The financial experts don’t know. The political experts don’t know. Likewise, predicting what might happen in the wine world this year would be a grossly foolhardy and totally pointless act of idiocy. So... Read More >

A Journey through Malt Whisky in 526 words

Malt Whisky is created when partially fermented malt is dried then mixed with water before being heated to cause a chemical reaction, which allows for the extraction of sugars. These sugars can then be fermented by the addition of yeast to produce alcohol. The resulting liquid, which is basically beer, is then distilled; heated to boil off the water and release alcoholic vapour, then condensed back into liquid. This happens three times and the outcome is far boozier than the pre-distilled liquid. Hooray, we have whisky - almost. Next comes the fun bit.  This liquid can then be altered by barrel ageing... Read More >

The Brand Bandwagon

Once upon a time life was simple. Cars took you from A to B. Telephones were used to make telephone calls. Perfume was worn to stop you smelling of gin and syphilis and grapes were grown, picked, squidged, fermented and drunk. Now these simple things define us. The Brand is king. It can make or break the marketing potential of a product, even wine. Would, for example, Marlborough's iconic wine Cloudy Bay have become the global phenomenon that it did if they had called it Farewell Spit? They nearly did, but you don't require a marketing genius to tell you that naming... Read More >


It was not that long ago that, bar a few notable exceptions, I thought the wines of Rioja were a rather mediocre affair. Decent value. A safe bet. Solid, but rarely spectacular. A sort of C+ sort of a wine. If I was unfortunate enough to be looking at a rather ordinary wine list then I could take comfort in the fact that it was likely to have a decent, if not remarkable Rioja Crianza hovering somewhere between the Cotes du Rhone and the Chianti.  After all, who could really take exception to the vanilla hit of American oak and the... Read More >

Bottled vs Canned vs Draught Ale

It was the summer of 96. The country was at fever pitch as El Tel's boys seemed to be cruising towards the European Cup, The Spice Girls warbled into the charts with their inaugural hit 'Wannabee' and I was sporting a rather dubious set of curtains - a haircut so atrocious that it is now punishable by death in certain parts of the world. I was also trying desperately to like beer but, no matter how hard I tried, I could not. It made me wretch and if, by a miracle, I did manage to force a couple of lagers down, the... Read More >

Wines of California

I think it is as a result of being a Brit that I have always had a slightly smudged relationship with Californian wine.  We are not conditioned to look to America for what we consider culture. France? Yes. Spain and Italy? Okay. But, for those of us who see wine as a product of culture, of regional identity and of the Artisan then America and California suffers. I have previously looked at imports from the US and found it very hard to discover wines of value and interest between the cheap, mass produced gloop of Blossom Hill and boutique, thousand dollar... Read More >

The Olympics

This blog was supposed to be about Russian wine but the samples I received were of a cloudy red demeanor in test tubes labelled SOCHI 2014 VINTAGE. They didn't taste great but I started to morph into The Incredible Hulk and found I could jump over the moon.              So, that bunch of rapscallions won't be there but the rest of the world are off to South America and Brazil for the traditional, great Olympian sports of the 100m sprint,  the long jump, javelin and... golf. Except that some golfers won't be there because they are scared of insects. One could argue... Read More >

Spanish Wine

It is no great secret that I have a very squidgy soft spot for Spanish wine. I think we all have a wine that got us into wine and mine was from Spain and specifically from Rioja. That first confrontation with the heady scent of American oak, of vanilla and furniture polish combined with the sweet/savoury blackberry and spice miracle concoction of Tempranillo was too much too resist. So much has happened since then that even Rioja has gone through several changes of direction. American barrels or French barriques? Pure Tempranillo, or blended with Graciano, Mazuelo, and/or Garnacha? Regional blends, or... Read More >

The Gin Explosion

The Gin and Tonic, or Geoffrey Thomas, as a Portuguese bartender friend of mine used to refer to it, is a drink that is ingrained in the British consciousness. A few years ago I was on a stag weekend in a Welsh coastal village when a group of us found ourselves mulling over what defines Britishness. In the alcohol subsection of our carefully and not at all drunkenly drawn up document was Pimms, the inevitable pint of Bitter, but topping the list was the G&T.  From Victorian urchin's fighting juice, to Mothers Ruin, the 6pm tipple of the gentry and now boutique spirit... Read More >

English Wine Week

Last weekend with some time to kill I wandered into the wines aisles of a (gasp) supermarket. I found myself in the one which, it is alleged, has the power to make house prices in its locality rocket, housewives salivate over Heston's Buns and house martins, well, the house martins don't care. They are birds. Or an 80s alternative musical outfit which our student union DJ would inevitably play at last orders sending sweaty young men with 'Snakey B' dripping from their eyeballs, stampeding towards the bar, the prospect of getting lucky being delivered a fatal blow shortly after their eighth pint of... Read More >

Champagne v Prosecco

For years and years she has sat upon her throne. Grand, sophisticated, regal. But now, a younger, fresh-faced upstart has sauntered into view. She is bright, popular and dare I say it, accessible. I am sure Her Majesty feels no such ill will towards Kate Middleton, but this is the sort of experience that Champagne has suffered against the stratospheric rise of Prosecco. This year demand is expected to outstrip supply of the nations new favourite fun juice. To drag out the analogy I rather fancy Prince Phillip as the Cava of the Royals. Old, blundering and liable to offend just... Read More >

Finding New Wines

Tasting wine is fun. Tasting wine never gets boring. Like watching a Joe Root cover drive, the boy makes it look so darned easy. Tasting wine, however, is not always easy.There are many mitigating factors. The opinions of others about you, temperature, humidity, altitude, time of day, the state of the moon, what you had for breakfast, they all play a part. Here I am, for example, at ten o'clock on a miserably dank morning in Sussex, sitting on a crate of beer in the corner of a cold, dark room with the flavours of coffee and Marmite toast lurking about... Read More >

The Rise of the Microbrewery

Last week I asked my wife to to name a hop. She sighed, glared at me, paused The Archers podcast and took a sip of her G&T.              "Is there a Fuggles?" She ventured.  If anyone was in any doubt that the beer revolution had reached the parts that other revolutions cannot reach then here was the evidence.  She went back to Helen and nasty Rob, but it left me thinking. Five years ago I could not have named a hop. Me. A serial imbiber of beer for nearly twenty years and yet for most of those years I could not have told... Read More >

The Rise & Rise of Sauvignon Blanc

  It just so happened that I embarked upon my vinous journey as the Sauvignon Blanc juggernaut was thundering along at quite a lick. It was not hard for a young, fresh-faced whippersnapper developing a taste for wine to be seduced by the unashamedly pungent examples from Marlborough in New Zealand. In the heat of my love affair I drove ten miles late on New Years Eve to buy a bottle of Cloudy Bay from a confused looking French sommelier for £70 at the doors of a Five Star Hampshire hotel. These days I tend to walk by that particular label and... Read More >

Organic & Biodynamic Wine

I harbour, I confess, a romantic ideal of a wine made from indigenous vines planted between ancient granitic boulders upon a hill in Spain by a hairy hermit who ploughs only by the full moon with his own fingernails. He sees the word pesticide as the very worst of all swearwords, using only the manure produced by the family composting water closet to fertilise his vines and whose relationship with the words Blossom and Hill are quite different to yours and mine. They make him smile and think of spring, not perspire heavily and think of satanic excreta in a bottle. There... Read More >

2015 was a very fine vintage...

      Forgive us please for blowing our own trumpet, but on this occasion we intend to go all out Jeremiah Clark's The Prince of Denmark's March performed by Håkan Hardenberger wearing a gold-lined Gucci suit and Unicorn-kissed Ray Bans. We sell wine for a living, which sounds glamorous but mostly involves moving heavy boxes from one side of a room to another and working desperately anti-social hours. It is, however, glamorous enough to have awards ceremonies and 2015 was a bumper harvest for South Downs Cellars. IWSC trophy for Independent Retailer of the Year, International Wine Challenge Regional Merchant of the Year, Runner-up... Read More >

Six Drinks for the Six Nations

Thighs pump, huge chests heave, pulses race and eyes goggle at the up and under. No, I am not talking about an evening at Stringfellows. The Six Nations is here and it is time to indulge in 'the gentleman's game' of dump tackling, eye gouging and head stamping.  Over the next few weeks the young, brave men that proudly pull on the shirts for their countries will lay bare their strengths and weaknesses, their flashes of brilliance and moments of human fallibility. To see us through these highs and the lows I offer six drinks to represent these six nations.    ... Read More >

Quality not quantity

Dry January; a decision many folk undertake, swapping the guilty gustatory excesses of Christmas for a cleansing start to the New Year. While it would be foolhardy to question such endeavour, perhaps there’s also some viable middle ground to tread too. By all means lets advocate restraint, but should the opportunity arise then lets also choose quality over quantity (every time) and opt to take a walk on the lighter side. Here are a few wine and beer suggestions to wet the whiskers. Becoming a staple beer style for many breweries is the low alcohol session ale, usually around 3%. The goal being... Read More >

IWSC Independent Retailer of the Year

09/12/15 On the 26th of last month the IWSC (International Wine & Spirit Competition) awards banquet took place at London’s Guildhall. The awards are now in their 46th year and renowned amongst wine and spirit producers globally. The Independent Retailer of the Year Award was launched in 2008. “…created to recognise the importance of the independent wine and spirit merchant, and their role in assisting UK wine and spirit buyers when making their selection. It is the knowledge and enthusiasm of the independent retailers which encourages consumers to try different products and gain a deeper knowledge of wines and spirits.” We’d been notified a few... Read More >

Champagne Gosset

07/11/15 For the forthcoming Christmas season South Downs Cellars is very pleased to be working with a world famous champagne house we’ve held in the highest regard for many years, making their highly anticipated arrival a poignant one too. We are of course referring to the one and only Champagne Gosset, founded some four centuries ago in 1584 by Pierre Gosset in the village of Ay (Pierre was the mayor of the now Grand Cru village) thus making it the regions oldest known wine producer. Why are we fans? The wines are renowned for their longevity as well as freshness. This can be attributed... Read More >

In vino veritas

The Italian wine landscape unites a myriad of regions, sub zones and numerous grape varieties like no other wine producing country; a blend of intrigue and sometimes bewilderment for the customer, with hard to interpret bottle labels regularly adding to its mystification. Wouldn’t it be so much easier if every single bottle simply stated the grape variety and offered a brief description of the wine like so many new world counterparts are able to do? Well yes it probably would be…and wouldn’t that run the risk of also being incredibly dull? It could do. So while Italian wines rich cultural heritage and occasional... Read More >

If you like great beer...

Approximately three to four years ago some London craft beers began to appear on our shelves; proving quite the noisy neighbours as they jostled with more traditional types from locally renowned breweries. In no time at all a throng of new pretenders were present, some of them brazenly shouting out loud (Beavertown), some of them not so much (Kernel). They certainly weren’t pretending though, the beer was really good. Not that good beer was hard to find previously, far from it, it’s just that these breweries were walking a different walk than many of us had been accustomed to. Over that period of... Read More >

Very Independent

Last week we were proud to be awarded the 2015 Regional Merchant for the South and South East at the International Wine Challenge awards dinner, which took place at the Park Lane Hilton, London. So what better time to showcase some of our favourite wine producers that we not only take pride in stocking but whose inclusion exemplifies our independent spirit. Here are three of many favourites: Henri Mandois, Pierry, Champagne While not classified as a ‘grower’ champagne the Mandois family own 35 hectares of vineyard located across the famous terroirs of Epernay, Vertus, Pierry and Chouilly. This accounts for 70% of the fruit required... Read More >


Cometh the sun cometh the Rosé Fingers crossed, it looks as though summer may have arrived and if like many Rosé proves to be your go to drink for sunny afternoons and clement evenings then stay on this page. What grapes are used? On this occasion we’re covering rosé wine from France, so whether it’s from Provence or the Languedoc Roussillon region the wine is usually a blend of two or three grape varieties. The principal grapes are all red / dark skinned varietals - Grenache, Syrah, Cinsault and Mourvedre. Rosé from the Loire is likely to be made from Pinot Noir. How is Rosé made?... Read More >