With less than two days to go until we launch our first Sussex Sparkling wines to the trade at Somerset House on Tuesday 24th April, I thought I’d reflect on what has been a very long, often busy, but rewarding eight years. I’ll try and keep it brief!
When Sarah encouraged me to study a degree in Wine Production at Plumpton College in 2010, I didn’t expect that we’d be here launching a sparkling wine in 2018. Firstly, we were lucky that Rathfinny Farm came up for sale. It was probably about a year or two earlier than hoped for, as I had only just started my wine making degree course! However, as soon as I saw the south facing slopes, on chalky soils, I was convinced that it would work. So whilst we’ve had our doubts and worries over the last eight years, it has proved to be a great place to grow fantastic sparkling wine grapes with great flavours.
Even our still wine, made from Pinot Gris and Pinot Blanc is proving popular. As Hugh Johnson tweeted last week “Promising start from Rathfinny, and at last an English white I really want to drink.” High praise indeed, thank you Hugh.
However, we’ve really been lucky with the team we’ve brought together at Rathfinny – firstly, Cameron Roucher – who runs the vineyard and moved over from New Zealand in 2011 with his then young family (he likes to be known as Employee Number 1!) He manages a loyal and hard working crew of full-time and seasonal workers who keep the vineyard immaculate, producing some spectacular, ripe grapes for our French wine maker, Jonathan Médard. Jonathan grew up in Champagne and has bubbles in his blood. He joined us over five years ago from California to make our wines and oversee the building of our Winery. The team doesn’t stop there; we have a superb COO called Jamie Everett, who is quite unflappable and quietly, behind the scenes, keeps everything on track, including the recent building works. Our superb PA, now our Head of Business Development, Georgia Mallinson who together with Sarah runs all the client facing parts of the operation, ably assisted by our daughter, Millie. We have a great team in the Gun Room, our Cellar Door, which will shortly be moving up into the Winery and a great team running Hospitality across the Estate managed by Adrian Lamb.
We’ve also worked with some with some incredible consultants and agencies who have aided our decision making and helped steer us in the right direction. They include John Rushworth at Pentagram, Nicola Stephenson at Mission PR, Ivan Bell at Stranger and Stranger, as well as Martin Swatton who designed our Winery, Anthony Sherwin who designed our Flint Barns, Adrian Moore and Chris Wojtulewski at Parker Dann who worked tirelessly with Tim Slaney at the South Downs National Park, who showed great vision in supporting us with our plans. We can’t forget also our local community in Alfriston and the surrounding area who continue to be about as excited as we are about Rathfinny and are great ambassadors!
So we feel very lucky – we are about to release our first two Sussex Sparkling wines – the 2014 Blanc de Blancs and 2015 Rosé and we’re very proud of them. They are a great expression of the quality of the wine now being produced in England and I feel that they will both surprise and excite the national and international wine trade.
After the launch on Tuesday the wines will be available, by the glass, at the Savoy Hotel for the month of May with their afternoon teas to celebrate the Royal wedding. Wouldn’t it be great if Harry and Meghan do become the Duke and Duchess of Sussex! The wines will also be available at various restaurants across London and Sussex – more on that later…
We are constantly being asked “where can I buy your wines?” Well we’re finalising deals with several independent wine merchants and will list them during May, though sadly we don’t have enough wine to satisfy the demand! We will also be selling our wines from our Cellar Door at the Winery from early June and you can taste them there as well.
So now I want to thank everyone within Rathfinny for your commitment, loyalty and pride and our family and friends, both new and old, for all your support and guidance over the last eight years. I believe that we we have built something rather special at Rathfinny and when you taste the wines I hope that you will agree that it has all been worth it?
Thank you for your on-going support.
PS – I’m in real trouble, not only did I forget to mention our terrific Brand Ambassador Rob Buckhaven, I neglected to mention Richard James who runs our tours and is the face of Rathfinny to many visitors. However, I also forgot to adequately thank my long suffering wife, Sarah, who not only went along with this project she has got more and more involved and had been the rock behind Rathfinny. Thank you one and all… suitably chastised!