It is no secret the South East of England is the perfect location for growing grapes for world-class English Sparkling wine. In fact, the South Downs countryside has been home to winemakers since Roman times as they had a maxim that a vineyard should be planted within sight of the sea. So here we are. Just three miles from the English Channel. We are located on the same band of chalk that forms the Paris Basin, running from Northern France into Southern England. This breath-taking south-facing slope in the South Downs of Sussex is one of England’s exceptional natural landscapes.
In a recent report, The South Downs National Park Authority published the Viticulture Growth Impact Assessment 2021. This is the first of its kind in the UK to evaluate the opportunities for winemaking and gained a lot of interest from the media. So much so we were interviewed on the radio and local news!
The modern Sussex winemaking community started in the 1970s and is now producing more wine than anywhere else in the UK. Indeed, there are now 52 vineyards and 11 wineries in Sussex and Rathfinny is one of the few single-site vineyards. This means all of the grapes we use in our wines come from just one plantation and every process is carried out on our Estate; from grape-growing, to winemaking, bottling and selling. If you visit our restaurants, you really can’t beat the immediate grape-to-glass experience.
Highlights from the 260-page document included the finding that 34% of the National Park land is suitable for viticulture, but only 0.4% is currently in use. The industry has also created hundreds of jobs and attracted thousands of visitors, contributing approximately £24.5 million to the local economy. The report concludes optimistically with how much potential there is for winemaking across the South Downs.
All Vineyard Managers who were interviewed for the were united in protecting the environment and there are guidelines to uphold standards.
As we owe much of our success to the changing climate which provides longer, warmer growing seasons, we will always be indebted to our environment. For us, making sustainable choices is something we think about daily and is wrapped up in our brand mission:
We are committed to producing exceptional wines and experiences, enjoyed the world over, that reveal the character of our family estate in Sussex, using methods that are kind to our land, people, community and wider environment.
One thing our staff and visitors have enjoyed this year is the inter-row wildflower corridors and swards of grass that have grown between the rows of vines. This has reduced our tractor miles and promoted biodiversity which is good for the pollinators and helps to control the nitrogen levels in the soil. This was recommended in the report and something we’ll continue to do.