Harvest at Rathfinny is expected to start next week, on or about 9th October. So far, we have had over 400 people sign up directly via our website and have over 20 people booked to stay on-site at the Flint Barns, from as far afield as Abu Dhabi and Alberta, Canada.
As Cameron said recently “We must be doing something right!”. I believe we’re treating people well, with reasonable wages and it’s not the back-breaking work that many people fear. Many of our pickers have been coming back year upon year and many of them signup to help with pruning and casual work at other times of the year. We’ve had to train our picking crew but they are proving themselves to be very efficient and a hard-working bunch. We also use a local recruitment agency and generally all our pickers come from within a 10-mile range of the vineyard.
Last year, our team of 150 pickers harvested a little over 400 tonnes of beautifully ripe grapes, that’s a little over 2700kg per person or roughly 180kg a day. Who said that the English wouldn’t pick grapes? Two years ago (in 2017) a comment piece in the Times said that you’d never get the “British to pick grapes in meaningful numbers”. Well, we seem to have proved them wrong. We have hundreds of people willing to pick grapes and they seem to enjoy it.
It’s hard work but equally, rewarding and satisfying. For many of our vineyard team this is the fruit of all their hard labour; many of our pickers helped prune the grapes over the winter months, they tucked in the new canes as they grew in the spring and they’ve trimmed and plucked leaves to ensure that the grapes remain disease-free and get sufficient sunshine to ripen. This is the fun time of year.
We just hope that the fruit comes in as clean and disease free as in previous years. The recent rains have added to our stress levels, but it still looks good. However, we could have done with a bit more sun rather than the recent rain!
Overall, we expect to pick close to 500 tonnes of grapes this year. Our proximity to the sea helps dry out the grapes and reduce any disease pressure. The birds have been kept off by nets and the badgers have been kept away by an electric fence. The 500 tonnes of fruit will translate into a little over 400,000 bottles of ‘Sussex Sparkling’ wine. So, we’re very excited.
Long days, early starts and late nights lie ahead for the team at Rathfinny. But it’s all worth it when you pop the cork and taste the wines. Sadly, we’ll have to wait another four years before the wines made from the 2019 harvest will be released, as this ‘Traditional’ or ‘Champagne Method’ wine and will spend three years in the bottle, in a temperature-controlled cellar, before it’s released onto the market.
Luckily, you can sample our wines from 2015 and 2016 in some of the best hotels in London, Hong Kong and across England and our Magnums of 2016 Rosé will go on sale at Harrods in November.
Here’s cheers to a great harvest in England in 2019!
**Please note that the Tasting Room is shut during harvest but you may have heard that the Flint Barns will open for lunch and Cellar Door and we have new opening hours for the Tasting Room restaurant and Flint Barns from November.