The Duchess of Cornwall was given a tour of an award-winning Sussex wine estate yesterday - in the village where she went to school.
And Camilla, 71 - whose father Major Bruce Shand was a wine merchant - expressed her delight as she toured the Ridgeview estate at Ditchling.
The duchess, president of Wines of Great Britain since 2011, was able to see progress at Ridgeview’s new £1.8m winery which the company says will enable it to double production to keep up with demand.
Wearing a light blue coat, she said: “Can I say what a huge pleasure it is to be here today. Not just that it has brought me back to Sussex, brought me back to Ditchling, where I used to be at school but one of my hugest pleasures is being President of Wines of GB.”
Ridgeview, established by the Roberts family, are known as leaders in the English sparking wine industry and were recently crowned ‘Best International Winemaker’ at the International Wine and Spirit Competition.
Representatives from Trinder architects and Axio Builders were in attendance as well as Clydesdale Bank who are supporting Ridgeview’s expansion project alongside joint funding from the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development.
A new purpose-built underground cellar will enable Ridgeview to store up to £1m bottles in perfect conditions.
Ridgeview chief executive Tamara Roberts showed the Duchess of Cornwall around the winery and introduced her to members of the Ridgeview team along with guests from trade and industry that have supported Ridgeview’s growth over the last 24 years.
The duchess, who said she has fond memories of the Ditchling area, also earlier visited the nearby newly-opened Jamie’s Farm; Charleston House and Amex Community Stadium for the Sussex Women’s lunch before touring Ridgeview.
The occasion was also proved a great moment for Ridgeview to honour the retirement of Chris Foss, founder of local Plumpton Wine College’s wine division, who has worked to improve English wine education and training for the past 31 years.
The royal visit helped celebrate a bumper 2018 harvest for English and Welsh wines, with a record-breaking 15.6 million bottles produced. Exports of English wine have doubled in the last 12 months, now exported to 40 different countries around the world.
Ridgeview’s head winemaker Simon Roberts has just returned from a trip across the USA - including a tasting a Google headquarters in San Francisco - celebrating Ridgeview’s status as ‘International Winemakers of the Year’, a first in the history of English Wine.
He said: “We were very honoured to have our patron, the Duchess of Cornwall visit the winery and meet our fantastic team who felt very privileged. It was great to invite many of our long-term supporters to celebrate our amazing day together.”