Discover a year in our Winery and what it takes to make outstanding, world-class, sparkling wine. We are very fortunate at Rathfinny to be able to carry out the full winemaking process on our single-site Estate. From growing and hand-harvesting our grapes on our Vineyard, to carrying out the technical winemaking processes, bottling, labelling and cellaring our wines, we can ensure high quality and authenticity every step of the way.
For us, harvest marks the start of the winemaking year. Our core Vineyard team are assisted by 200 extra workers from the local community, who help pick the fruit. The fruit is transferred to the Winery where it is pressed into juice using our Coquard presses. The juice is split into two quality types: the Cuvée (gentle pressing, producing refined, elegant juice) and the Taille (a later pressing, making full, colourful and fruity juice). The juices are settled, racked, and inoculated with yeast within 24 hours of harvest. Once fermentation has started, we inoculate for malolactic fermentation to help soften the acidity and produce rounder wines.
Harvest has finished and it’s cold outside. All the harvest equipment is cleaned and stored until needed for the following year. The wines have completed their first alcoholic fermentation. However, they are still busy going through malolactic fermentation (MLF). MLF allows the tart and sharp flavours of malic acid to convert into the creamier properties of lactic acid. This can take quite some time, but the Winery team is hard at work ensuring the wines are kept in the best possible condition. Our winemaker starts to evaluate the sparkling wines from previous vintages assessing when they should be released. Dosage trials, whereby we decide on the additional sugar content required to balance the overall structure of the wine, are conducted on those wines selected for release in the coming year.
Malolactic fermentation has now finished, and the wines can settle and mature. Our Winery team identifies and classifies the wines, piecing together different parcels to create the four distinct Rathfinny sparkling wines. The blending can now start in earnest. The wines are racked and mixed in blending tanks. Once the wines are blended, they are gently filtered and stabilised, ready to be moved to our bottling building.
All the wines have been blended, stabilised and ready for bottling. Our Winery team adds sugar and yeast to the wine in tank just before bottling. The wines are bottled under a crown cap and moved to our Cellar. They gently go through a secondary fermentation in their bottles which is how bubbles are added to the wine. This can take a couple of months to complete, but we allow the wines to mature for far longer, often three years. Finally, the Winery is empty of wine but far from quiet. The Winery team is busy cleaning tanks, bringing the harvest equipment out of storage and preparing to start it all again!
Ongoing Production Work
Aside from the seasonal work, our production team are always busy preparing our Sussex Sparkling wines for release. Regular activities include riddling which requires gyropalettes to rotate and elevate our bottles from horizontal storage to vertical, thus collecting the yeast lees in the neck to allow for easy removal.
This is followed by disgorging where the bottles have their necks frozen, so the lees are trapped in a plug of frozen wine. When the cap is removed, the bottle pressure ejects the frozen plug, leaving a clear, clean sparkling wine. The concentrated grape must and sulphite dosage are added, and the bottle is topped back to full and sealed with a Diam Mytik cork and wire hood. Watch our video to see this in action.
Finally, we have Labelling where the newly disgorged wine is allowed to rest for several months to integrate before the bottles are washed, foiled and labelled before packing and dispatch.