I love these cold, clear, crisp mornings where I am up early and out with Spike for a walk around the vines. It’s so amazing just how quick the vineyard team are pruning and tying back the vines ready for the year ahead. It’s also amazing to see the early morning sunrise. The picture below was taken by the Flint Barns this week – what a stunning view to wake up to!
It is a hugely exciting year for all of us at Rathfinny, as I’m sure you are aware we are releasing our first Sussex Sparkling wines this year and I for one can’t wait. It’s what we’ve all been working toward these past few years and the time is nearly here.
After eight years of toil, in both the Vineyard and the Winery we are now just months away from releasing our first Sussex Sparkling wines. This week we passed a major milestone as we ‘disgorged’ the first wines to be released. The act of removing the yeast and finally putting a cork in the bottle means that all we need to do now is label the bottles and they’ll be ready to go.
Wine and food-matching is like sex and pizza, even when its bad, it’s still pretty good. Wish I could claim that quote, but unfortunately wine expert Mike Oldman beat me to the punch.
What I will say is that wine and food pairing is an art-form, books have been and are continued to be written about it. It’s a riddle, with basis in science yet subjective, with no right and wrong answers but a rule book longer than your arm. There is so much to learn yet it relies on our natural instinct. A complete contradiction, in other words!
I risk repeating myself every season when I’m asked to blog about pruning.
Yes, it’s cold. No, we don’t prune in the rain (Yes, it is possible in England to not prune in the rain). Yes, we are using local labour (Yes, they do want to work).
The image above was taken last weekend as I caught up on some peace and quiet by asking my four kids, aka The Tribe, to count the vines.
On Monday I was delivering some of our Seven Sisters Gin to a shop and I got chatting to one of their customers and they stated “must be quiet up at Rathfinny this time of year.”
Nowadays, I can’t take a bite of my meal without snapping it on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter first. I’m passive-aggressively outraged if a dining companion tucks into their starter while I’m still trying to find my best lighting. The #nofilters photo of my Eggs Florentine at an Insta-friendly cafe, which only took 110 dry-runs to get right, followed by #blessed and the praying-hands emoji…is the depressing reality of where it’s all come to. Bear with me, it gets more cheerful.
Putting together the invitee list for our big Rathfinny launch in London, now set for April 2018 (available to purchase in June), got me thinking. It struck me that if this is to go off with a #bang, we’d need to invite some influencers along. Only thing is, I had no idea what influencers were, where they lived, what they did, was I one? I then realised, neither of my twitter followers had ever retweeted any of my posts, so I couldn’t be.
Somewhere in the world it must be time for a gin. It would appear that the rise in popularity of micro breweries and artisan beers has made way for a wave of gin.
Those from Sussex may have seen our glorious white gin bottles in local stores, bars or hotels. Named after the iconic Seven Sisters but gin from these parts is not a new phenomenon. The land that folds over the top of the Seven Sisters cliffs between Seaford and Birling Gap is knows as Crowlink. Genuine Crowlink Gin was the drink in the 1800s in London. It was illegally imported gin which could be legally sold over the bar. Many landlords even resorted to placing the word Crowlink on their barrels as pure PR to improve sales, even if it wasn’t the real deal. The smuggling trade was of huge importance in this part of East Sussex and many of the larger houses that adorn the landscape have been ‘funded’ from the illegal import of alcohol. Ours is not illegal but we do hope it continues to be the gin to drink!
Dear Mr Hammond
Is it fair or wise to penalise a British industry that is growing and taking on the world? Would we charge higher taxes on Whisky or Scottish woolens than on Vodka or Chinese jumpers? Would we charge higher VAT on British made luxury cars than lower priced ones?
So why do we charge higher rates of Excise Duty on sparkling wine than still wine in the UK?
It’s a little-known fact that we pay 28% more of Excise Duty per bottle on sparkling wine than on still wine – £2.74 and ‘just’ £2.16 respectively. Plus VAT of 20% …
I say ‘just’ because in the rest of Europe Excise Duty on wine is generally 8-10p per bottle! It’s cheaper to buy most wines, even English
We’ve finished our harvest and it was completely wonderful. Not only did we have a bumper crop, over twice what was harvested last year, but we had so many other things to celebrate. As Mark mentioned in a previous blog we had a super team of local pickers come and join us. Mark was away the first morning of harvest so it fell to me to do a rousing, welcoming speech.
We started harvesting our great crop of wonderful ripe grapes on Monday and since then our team of mostly local workers has picked over 80 tonnes of fruit.
I say mostly because we’re very proud to have recruited nearly 100 people from the local area to pick grapes.. something we were told we wouldn’t be able to do. Read this article in The Times, click here. You’d think that the Brits are lazy or that picking fruit is beneath them!
We also have over a dozen people staying in our Flint Barns who have come from further afield: A father and son from Canada and Dubai, and as far away as Aberdeen and Nottingham, Worthing and London.
This isn’t a casual brag, but I went to a wine tasting in London the other day billed as the ‘biggest wine tasting in Europe’. It was given by the premium glass manufacturer, Riedel, by the eleventh-generation CEO himself, Maximilian Riedel.
In my delusional mind it was going to be an intimate affair, with me and a handful of other world-class wine writers. There were in fact hundreds of people in attendance, which made me feel so special. Like me, all had been lured by the title of the event, “A Tasting to find The Perfect Champagne Glass”.
Mark and I had a lovely evening last week, hosted by the Rotary Club in Eastbourne. They invited us to talk about Rathfinny and we did as a ‘double act’. We’ve given a fair few talks now and have settled into Mark talking about the wine and the vineyard, with me talking about our ‘engagement with the public’ side of the business – the Flint Barns, Sunday lunches, tours, Gun Room and events generally. Obviously, as is our want, we interrupt each other as we go along.