The Rathfinny Estate in Sussex was founded in 2010 to produce
some of the world’s truly great sparkling wines. It is situated near Alfriston on the South Downs and has the perfect aspect, soil and climate profile for sparkling wine.
The intention is to have 160 hectares (400 acres) of vines planted
by 2020, eventually producing over a million bottles a year
of the finest wines.
These are the South Downs of Sussex, one of England’s exceptional
natural landscapes. Rathfinny occupies a south facing slope on a fold
of the South Downs just three miles from the sea.
Rathfinny’s climate and south-facing aspect make it probably the
most perfect spot in a region that is already producing the best English
wines – and is of increasing interest to French and other traditional
Rathfinny lies on the same band of chalk that forms the Paris
Basin, running from Northern France into Southern England
and then out under the Atlantic.
The Cretaceous geological phenomenon is the result of aeons of the chalky deposits left by marine organisms over 100 million years ago, and then heaved upwards tectonically at the same time as the Alps to become part of the land.
For vines, the shallow but fertile, well drained chalky soil has an
ideal consistency and absorbency, while also providing crucial and
subtle reflectivity of the sun.
Rathfinny lies within three miles of the English Channel, giving it a maritime climate that provides protection from late frosts. The vineyard is predominantly south-facing and, remarkably, is protected from the prevailing south westerlies by a natural land bank that runs along the southern edge of the Estate.
An exceptional sunshine record and moderate annual rainfall, combined with a low frost risk and free-draining, chalky soil, are ideal for producing grapes of outstanding quality.
A long and steady growing season will allow grapes to ripen and develop their flavours as well as their natural balance of acids and sugars.
Over centuries, the evolution of sparkling winemaking has
proceeded hand-in-hand with the propagation of the few grape varietals that are perfect for the task. These are principally Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and Pinot Meunier.
The finest specimens of these grapes have been sourced for
Rathfinny. The first batch was carefully transported to the Estate from a nursery in Germany for the inaugural planting in March 2012, which covers 20 hectares (50 acres).
A further 20 hectares (50 acres) has been earmarked for 2013. Within five years the intention is to have 160 hectares (400 acres) under vine.
The time honoured methods for making sparkling wine, developed over centuries in the Champagne region of France and elsewhere, are being adopted and refined for Rathfinny.
The different grape varietals are tended to by Cameron Roucher, a top viticulturist from New Zealand. They contribute freshness and elegance, fruitiness and aromas, body and structure to the wine.
Traditional winemaking processes are under the careful control of winemaker, Jonathan Médard. They involve assembling the different fermented juices, the characteristic fermentation in the bottle that produces the distinctive and alluring qualities of the sparkling wine, and the maturation over a number of years.
Building the Rathfinny Winery starts in 2012