“PURE CHALK,” SAYS Dermot Sugrue. He picks up a chunk the size of a double-A battery. Then he scrawls his initials on a steel post that supports fruiting wire, as easy as if he was writing on a blackboard.
We’re standing in a vineyard in West Sussex, in southern England. Before us looms the gentle slope of the South Downs, a range of hills that arcs from Hampshire, to the west, across 250 miles to Eastbourne and the sea. Sugrue, who is the winemaker at West Sussex’s Wiston Estate and previously worked at Nyetimber, a pioneer of English sparkling wine, scoops up a handful of soil, chooses another nugget, and hands it to me. “Once you go down 15 centimeters, you’re on top of billions of cubic meters of pure white chalk,” he says.