We have all heard of Prosecco and Champagne – but Worthing's first winery has launched a bottle of bubbly to rival the kings of sparkling wine.
The makers of Fitz have been based at the Hambridge Trading Estate in East Worthing for just over a year.
This year, they have made 20,000 bottles of wine – and next year, they hope to make 80,000, creating jobs locally.
Ollie Peniston-Bird, 27, from Broadwater, said: “It isn’t a carbon copy of Prosecco, it is taking the production method and using home-grown grapes to make something that is the first of its kind. There isn’t anything else like this anywhere else in the world.”
The project began in 2016, with the business owner Dan Cahill and wine maker Gareth Davies visiting the Prosecco region of northern Italy to learn from the experts.
After setting up the winery, they bought Sussex and English-grown grape varieties like Seyval Blanc, Chardonnay, Reichensteiner and Madeleine Angevine and pressed them in late October.
The juice was then transported into primary fermentation tanks, where yeast was added and it was fermented for two to three weeks to create a base wine.
A process called racking to get rid of the dead yeast cells followed, and the wine was then moved to the secondary fermentation tanks with a little extra sugar and more yeast. It was then fermented there for 50 days – double the usual length of Processo – for a drier taste. Champagne has its second fermenation in the bottle, like all official English sparkling wines, so this method is what makes Fitz unique in our country’s wine-making scene, Ollie said.
The name Fitz came from the old process of naming the illegitimate children of English kings, like Fitzgerald.
Ollie said: “We are the illegitimate child of English sparkling wine, so we thought why not run with it?”
The end result is a wine which is drier than Prosecco but sweeter than Champagne, with fruity notes of apple, elderflower and honeysuckle.
It has been getting a good reception from industry experts, being stocked in bars and restaurants including the Brooksteed Alehouse in Worthing.
And with this year’s hot summer, Ollie hoped next year’s wine will be even better than their first batch.