Our Vineyard Manager, Cam arrived on the Estate from New Zealand in 2011 with his young family ready to embark on an exciting Sussex Sparkling journey. 12 years later and we owe a large part of the Vineyard’s success and our B Corp certification to Cam and his team. As we prepare to say goodbye later this year, we spoke to Cam, reflecting on his time at Rathfinny and what awaits him in Australia.
When did you arrive at Rathfinny?
I arrived here in April 2011, making this my 13th year in the UK.
What was the Estate like then? Was it still farmland?
There were arable crops. Mark and Sarah had only just completed on the purchase in October of the previous year but some of the planning for the Vineyard had been laid out. Fence lines had been removed, a mustard cover crop and trees had been planted in the Vineyard area. It was quite a warm spring and summer that year so it was straight to work watering newly planted trees to keep them alive.
You’ve seen so much development and change. Is there one thing in the development that has given you particular pleasure along the way?
The whole Estate has changed so much, from slowly taking over more and more of the arable land for Vineyard to all the various builds over the years. My favourite part of the Vineyard development is the area between the Winery and the Flint Barns. What started as a field full of flints that looked as though it would never be a Vineyard has turned into some of the best producing blocks we have. Picking up 60 tonnes of flints (which were used to construct the buildings) from those fields really improved the look of the landscape.
Is your family looking forward to moving to Australia? What plans do they have?
Absolutely, the combination of a great climate and awesome beaches is a big draw Plus, it’s nice to be closer to family. This Christmas will be our first family Christmas in five years so will be nice to spend some time with family for a change.
Which region will you be living in and what’s the lifestyle like?
We’re moving to a wine region called Margaret River which is in the South-West of Western Australia, about three hours south of Perth. The Margaret River region produces only 2% of the total wine production for Australia but 20% of the premium wine. The region itself is about 2/3 the size of East and West Sussex combined but only about 110km long, it has 215 vineyards which cover an area of about 5,800 hectares. For comparison, Sussex has about 50 vineyards, covering just under 1,100ha. The lifestyle there is amazing, superb food and wine, lovely forests and world class beaches with over 40 surf breaks up and down the coast.
How different will your new role be? Which grape varieties and wines are produced?
The biggest change will be in having various Vineyards spread across the region instead of just one site. The area I’m looking after to begin with is about 15% larger than here but it’ll take a while to get my head around the intricacies of each site. They grow a load of different varieties, a lot that I’m familiar with (Merlot, Malbec, Chardonnay, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz, Grenache, and Riesling) and have grown before. There are others that I have no experience with so that will be interesting to have the challenge of learning each one of their little idiosyncrasies (Mencia, Counoise, Mouvedre, Fiano, Grenache Blanc, Tempranillo).
Aside from our predictable climate, what will you miss most about Rathfinny and about Sussex/UK in general?
Well, I will actually miss the summer here. It’s just the other 350 days of the year that I have a problem with! I’ll miss my volunteer work with Coastguards, Brighton and its music scene and being so close to London and Europe. There’s so much about Rathfinny that I will miss. This hasn’t just been my workplace but my home, its actually the longest I’ve ever lived anywhere my entire life. The view, the environment, the changing of the Vineyard over the year, the people, the ever improving diversity, the wine! I’ll miss working for Mark and Sarah, the nicest people you could hope to work for!
You’ll be missed in equal measure. Thanks, Cam!