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Peter Hall planted the vines in 1974, and his estate is the oldest in the UK

Breaky bottom

Breaky Bottom is a local name – the word Bottom denotes a dry chalk valley - and historical – Breaky Bottom was mentioned in the Domesday book.

Peter Hall discovered Breaky Bottom in the early 1970s and saw in its climate and chalk-rich soils – similar to Champagne and the Loire Valley – the potential to produce high quality wines. At this time, there was an increasing trend for clean, fresh, cool-climate wines, and plant nurseries were developing early-ripening grape varieties to produce these styles.

As a result, Peter planted Seyval Blanc and small amounts of other hybrid grapes. While he originally produced still wines, he turned increasingly to sparkling wines over time. At the turn of the century, he also took the decision to plant the champagne varieties, particularly Chardonnay, with smaller amounts of Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier.

The estate produces traditional method (méthode champenoise) sparkling wines of exceptional quality and character, thanks to its unique terroir, kid-glove vineyard husbandry and careful winemaking with extended ageing on the lees and cork, a crucial part of the process.

All wines made are of a single vintage, and each year Peter makes just two cuvées, which are then aged in bottle for at least four years. The style of each cuvée will vary according to the harvest, and just a few hundred cases are made of each.

Each year will yield approximately 10,000 bottles in total, though as Peter points out, in some years the entire crop has been lost to floods or pheasants, and of course viticulture in a marginal climate such as the UK is challenging.

The Vineyards


Breaky Bottom is located in a tiny estate that lies in the fold of a secluded valley.  It is just 2 miles from the English Channel, outside the village of Rodmell near Lewes in the South Downs National Park.  The vineyard spans just 2.3 hectares (6 acres) of vines. Cool-climate viticulture is challenging, and the UK lies at the very margins of latitude considered possible to ripen grapes for winemaking.

Breaky Bottom’s position deep in the valley means it is protected from coastal winds and is quite a sun-trap, providing an ideal microclimate for vine growing. Proximity to the sea helps minimise the risk of spring frosts.  These conditions allow the grapes to ripen slowly but fully, while retaining the succulent acidities to produce high-quality sparkling wine.

The soil is a free-draining chalk loam with flint content, ideal for sparkling wine grapes.  Wines are made from the classic Champagne varieties of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier that were planted from the early 2000s. 

There is also Seyval Blanc, which comes from Peter’s original 1974 plantings of Seyval Blanc, nearly 50 years old and gnarly but still upright in their small sloping vineyard.

Breaky Bottom is a small-scale family-run operation where everything is carried out by hand, and much of it by Peter himself, whose belief is that quality of the wines lies in the vineyard. The health and balance of the vines are his priority such that he knows each and every vine, virtually by name!

Peter harvest’s the grapes at their ripest, as late as possible in the Autumn, to allow the maximum expression of Breaky Bottom’s unique terroir.  The approach is one of sustainability, encouraging natural biodiversity. Peter also keeps a flock of 40 ewes and lambs to graze the steep banks of the valley, replenish the soil and keep grass in check.

The Wines

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