On our Sussex Vineyard Tours and Wine Tastings, you will discover how we make our sparkling wines. Nothing beats immersing yourself in the Vineyard, but if you’re intrigued to start learning about Traditional Method sparkling winemaking, read on for a whistle-stop tour from grape to glass.

The Vineyard – Cultivating the Grapes

Rathfinny is located in the South Downs National Park, sharing the same band of chalk that forms the Paris Basin which runs from northern France into the south of England. The vines have been planted on south-facing slopes overlooking the English Channel whilst ensconced in the protection of a valley which helps to mediate weather conditions and disease. Our grape varieties include:

Pinot Noir

This red wine grape is key to making world-class sparkling wines; it’s thin skinned, and capable of producing low tannin wines that tend to evoke fruity, red berry aromas.

Pinot Meunier

This dark and distinctly flavoured grape is another sparkling wine producer’s staple, with higher acidity than its neighbour, Pinot Noir, with a lighter and more citrus flavour profile.


Chardonnay is a green-skinned grape, recognisable in white wine production but also invaluable to sparkling wine producers like Rathfinny. It tends to produce full bodied wines and can add a delightful freshness to sparkling wines.

Grapes going into Press
Rathfinny Estate Harvest Landscape October 2022

Harvesting – Timing and Technique

Harvest happens in the autumn, but timing is everything; we have a long growing season at Rathfinny, from April to early October, but the weather conditions we’ve experienced throughout the year will of course have an impact on our crop. Therefore, we rely on our expert Vineyard Technicians to determine when the grapes are at their best in terms of acidity and sugar levels. Upon their signal, a crew of 200 local pickers are deployed to bring in the harvest.

We favour hand harvesting here at Rathfinny to ensure the very best grapes are selected and deposited to the Winery in the best condition.

Harvest Pickers 2018

Primary Fermentation – The Base Wine Creation

In the Winery, located on our single-site Estate, a base wine is produced from our hand-picked, whole bunch pressed grapes. Each grape variety is fermented in our temperature-controlled, stainless-steel tanks. The base wines are refined, clarified, and stabilised, using yeast that reacts with the naturally occurring grape sugars.

The Traditional Method – Crafting the Finest Sparkling Wines

All Rathfinny wines are made in the Traditional Method which starts by choosing the base wines that will be blended to create the portfolio of Rathfinny cuvées. We then bottle the chosen blend and add a small amount of yeast to enables a secondary fermentation in the bottle. A secondary fermentation creates the bubbles in the wine, as the CO2 is trapped inside the bottle.

The next stage is not for the impatient: the wines are allowed to rest in the bottle in our temperature-controlled Cellar for around 36 months. This allows time for the yeast to break down and imparting new flavours through a process called ‘autolysis’.

Following ageing, the yeast needs to be encouraged out of the wine so that it can be removed. This is done by “riddling”, which means slowly, day by day, rotating the bottles to stand ‘sur pointe’ (neck down); this moves the yeast into the neck of the bottle.

Disgorging and Dosage – The Final Touches

Disgorgement works by freezing the neck of the bottle, removing the crown cap, and allowing the pressure inside the bottle to force the frozen plug of yeast out. Sugar can then be added – this is known as the ‘dosage’. Think of it like seasoning, rounding off the wine before the cork is inserted, and the cage added on top.

Bottling and Ageing – Preparing for Market

Post-disgorgement, we allow a period of three months minimum before releasing the wines. This allows them time to rest and adjust to being under cork. The bottles are then washed, foiled, and dressed with labels. They’re now ready to be savoured.

Learn More About our Production Process with a Winery Tour

It’s a joy to not only show people how the finest Sussex sparkling wine is made here at Rathfinny, but also share our philosophy, demonstrate the importance of our environment and sustainability pledges, and provide insight into the state-of-the-art equipment we use. This is what we’re able to do as part of our Winery Tours, which conclude with a tasting of our Sussex Sparkling wines. It’s a fascinating experience for wine lovers; book as a treat for yourself, or a thoughtful gift for a friend.