Rathfinny Wine Estate

On the verge of flowering

This season has got off to a flying start!

The vineyard growth is at least a couple of weeks ahead of what would be considered normal, thanks mainly to well above average temperatures in Spring and in particular May.

Average temperatures for May, as well as April, were well above mean long-term average temperatures for most of the country, even Scotland! This is starting to become a bit of a trend in recent years (long may it continue) and is only positive for grape growing. Also with good rainfall in late winter/early spring the moisture content of the soil has been ideal to get things off to a good start.

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There’s been a lot going on … and more to come!

I confess I missed a blog a few weeks ago. There was just too much going on and sometimes you have to say I just can’t do that. It was one of those times.

This year has been full on starting with Millie and me going to France to sort out our foils, then finalising the design of our labels, getting them printed, re-doing and up-dating all our assets – everything from signatures, letterheads, the website – organising our trade launch, preparing for the visit by Her Royal Highness Princess Anne to open our new buildings and in all of this, our son Brook got married both in Hackney and here at Rathfinny. As I said, it’s been very busy.

So it was a huge treat to be invited by The Savoy, along with all our staff, to their Royal Wedding Afternoon Tea where our Rathfinny Sussex Sparkling is being served. Here I am with the Gun Room team. I think it’s true to say that we all had to keep pinching ourselves to actually be drinking our wine in this world renowned hotel. It was also an opportunity to say good-bye and thank you to Alison Cowley, who has managed our Gun Room so exceptionally well. We will miss her.

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HRH Princess Anne opens our new Wine Processing Centre

HRH Princess Anne arriving by helicopter at Rathfinny to open the new Wine Processing Centre and Cellar

It’s not everyday that royalty drops into Rathfinny, but this week Her Royal Highness Princess Anne came to officially open our new winery buildings: The ‘Cellar’, which will store all our wine whilst it matures in the bottle ‘on-lees’ and the ‘Bottling’ centre that will

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Phenology – What goes around comes around

With the success of our launch at the end of April, the pressure is well and truly on to carry on producing the best grapes for our Sussex Sparkling. As part of the U.K wine industry, we find ourselves at a very fortunate standpoint in comparison to some of our European counterparts in the face of climate change. Even though research points to more unpredictable weather conditions in the U.K, we are also eagerly anticipating higher temperatures and less rain during the growing season (emphasis on eagerly) whilst southern Europe is facing short-term realities of severe drought conditions, extreme heat and ultimately, the inability to grow or produce certain varieties and wine styles. But what is phenology and what does it have to do with this?

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More planting!

Unless you’ve been living under a rock recently you’ll be aware that we’ve finally launched our Sparkling wines last week. I won’t dwell on this but so far both the trade and media have received them very well.

Now that that necessary distraction is out of the way we can get back to the business of wine-growing. Last Friday we started planting more vineyard, another 13ha.

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Launch programme

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

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Spirit of Sussex

The saying goes “boys and their toys”, and in this case my little eyes did light up when I saw the contraption above.  A wonderful copper pot still with column and condenser to the side.  You just want to stroke it and hope that it goes ‘whizz, pop, bang’ – or is that just me?

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20 day countdown

Only 20 days to go until our launch!

I’m in trouble as I should have written this blog last week!  In fact, I feel a little bit like that all the time at the moment as there is just so much going on.  I checked back and I think my last blog was in November, at harvest, and it’s made me reflect about what’s gone on in between.

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The Rise of Rosé

With the launch of our sparkling wines next month and John Bon Jovi bringing out his own rosé, it got me thinking about the current upward trajectory of pink wine.

There’s no doubt, it’s a category that’s had its fair share of ups and downs. Typically viewed as too girly by men, and thanks to the American blush wines, too cloyingly sweet by others. I know that because if I ever used to order rosé whilst out with my friends, I’d never hear the end of it. Guys would have been very sure of themselves to withstand that level of stick that came with it. Nowadays, we tend to go all-in on a bottle of rosé, no questions asked. So, what happened?

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The Pint bottle is the perfect measure…

It was Churchill who famously said that:

Clemmie thinks that a full bottle is too much for me. But I know that a half bottle is insufficient to tease my brains. An imperial pint is an ideal size for a man like me. It’s enough for two at lunch and one at dinner. It pleases everyone, even the producer.”

We agreed and in 2015 we made the decision to produce 800 bottles of our Blanc de Noirs in a ‘Modern Pint’ 50cl bottle.  We had to search the continent for the bottle, but eventually found a bottle manufacturer in France who produced a 50cl sparkling wine bottle. We only used 800 (a pallet load) of these dark green bottles because legally in Europe you can only sell sparkling wine in 37.5cl, 75cl bottles and multiples of 75cl.

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Assessing Vine Balance

Many aspects of our daily lives are focused on achieving some sort of balance. Balancing obligations at work and home, our diets, our accounts or if you’re anything like me – balancing the washing up next to the kitchen sink like the leaning tower of Pisa. In the vineyard, when we talk about ‘vine balance’ we’re focused on the relationship between the leaves, shoots, roots and fruit on the vines. However, what determines ‘balance’ can differ depending on the climate, variety and even wine style which means it can be hard to define – that’s why we’ve been recording pruning weights this year. 

Read Frances's Article