Rathfinny Wine Estate

It doesn’t rain it pours…

It doesn’t rain it pours…

With sunshine that is, what a pleasant and welcome change to finally see the sun for more than a couple of hours, and plenty of warmth to go with it.

Some of the more sheltered areas have visibly taken off, some vines have put on an inch or so of growth in the last week alone.

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We are still marking out and putting posts in, although held up by a few breakdowns they are going in great. All the young blocks are now cultivated to keep the weeds down while last year’s vines are trying to head towards flowering, while others that don’t have flowers are putting on reasonable shoot growth.IMG_0492

We also have made a start on picking up flints from the area around this year’s planting. Last year the guys managed to pick up 60 tonnes of flint which will go into the building of the flint barn. We should get at least that this year, even if we don’t get anywhere near that tonnage of fruit! It’s a long slow and dusty process at this time of year but at least it beats doing it when the ground is frozen.

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More Progress

There was much excitement at Rathfinny this week as the first three fermentation tanks arrived from France.

Tank on the lorry

The rest of the tanks were inspected in France by Jonathan last week and are due for delivery on the 16th July.

tanks in France

I keep being told that the winery will be ready on the 16th August and fully tested and ready for operation by the end of August, but there still seems to be a lot to do. However, it was nice to see the first three of twenty-four tanks arrive this week and they are currently housed in our grain barns waiting to be set up in the winery in mid-July.

The floor of the fermentation hall has been prepared; drainage channels put in, the floor levelled and covered in epoxy non-slip coating. So we are ready to go. The offices and tasting room are taking shape as well, the ceilings are going in and the under-floor heating is in and the cladding is going up on the outside.

vine growth

Meanwhile the vineyard is looking very tidy. The vines are still a bit behind and we are still trying to tame the wind, which has been unusually strong again this year. However, we have a few inflorescence (flower clusters) on some of the vines and as we expect to have some better/hotter weather they should be flowering in the next two weeks. So I am still hopeful of getting a very small crop this year, enough to play with the new equipment in the winery. Ever the optimist…

Meanwhile the new vineyard is taking shape. The vineyard team, now featured on our website under People– http://www.rathfinnyestate.com/people/ – have been working very hard putting in the trellising posts and recently we have had some students in trimming vines and putting clips on the stakes to hold them to the fruiting wires.

young vine growth

So lots of progress, including the work on the Gun Room which will serve as our tasting room on the Tye, in Alfriston that we hope to open in November this year.

Enjoy the warmer weather, we are….

Mark Driver

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Too exciting …..

Ok, so I don’t write anything for ages and here I am pushing in with a second blog in 2 weeks!

However, whilst Mark gets excited about tanks and cross flow filters and electro dialysis (yawn!), I got really excited this week about our winery tasting room, which is taking shape. It has been a difficult room in some ways to fit out as it is long and narrow, but with the tireless help of Susie Atkinson, who has fitted out several Soho House venues, and Martin Swatton, our designer, we are nearly there.

Here’s our passage to the tasting room

tasting room hall

And our samples

tasting room samples

And our tasting room!

tasting room

The plan is to use this room to host trade tasting as well as events and it will be available for hire for off-sites, conferences and entertaining.

Finally, I then got even more excited down at the Gun Room where they are making great progress.  Look at what we found under the pebble dash ……..

pebble-dash:flint

Beautiful flint walls!  What was with the pebble dash??

flint wall

(If you’re worried about the benches – they’ve been temporarily removed to keep them safe whilst this work is undertaken.)

The Rathfinny Gun Room which incorporates Alfriston’s Heritage Centre will be open in November for early Christmas shopping – did I say Christmas!?  That will probably be the next time I write a blog knowing my track record!

Sarah Driver

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Visit to Champagne

It has been another busy week here at Rathfinny, starting with a visit to Champagne.

Mark and I had an amazing tour around Taittinger getting a serious case of cellar envy!  20 metres under their main site in Reims (pronounced Rance!) are Roman chalk cellars dating back to the third century, that they call ‘crayeres’.  They are incredible, dome shaped, rising like pyramids above you to small vents at ground level.

We saw rounded caves stacked with bottles, 72,000 to be exact, that take 2 men one week to fill.  With the help of wooden bars to line up the bottles exactly, they stack them 42 levels high – any higher and too much pressure is exerted on the lower bottles.

cellar taittinger

Then there was the range of bottles that made the standard 75cl bottle look positively tiny!

bottle sizes

I learnt their names – from smallest to largest – demie, bouteille, magnum (1.5 litres, 2 bottles), Jeroboam (3 litres, 4 bottles), mathusalem (6 litres, 8 bottles), salamanzar (9 litres, 12 bottles), balthazar (12 litres, 16 bottles) and finally nabuchodonosor (15 litres, 20 bottles).

I also learnt that Taittinger are one of the only Champagne houses to age their champagne in a jeroboam.  Many others decant from smaller bottles into a jeroboam after the secondary fermentation.  Taittinger only decant into bottles bigger than a jeroboam and we saw this process with a mathusalem.

transfer method

We met Pierre-Emmanuel Taittinger and his son, Clovis and took on board their words of wisdom on how to market our sparkling wine all over the world.  The main messages I have taken home with me are it is hard work and attention to detail is paramount.

Back at Rathfinny there’s the winery tasting room fit out to finalise, seasonal workers’ employment contracts to draft, overseeing the Gun Room building works, preparing the winery for the delivery of the tanks, meetings with our PR agency to finalise our plans for next year, details to sort out for the winery opening, decisions to be taken on our labelling …… They were right about one thing – it is hard work!

Sarah Driver

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