OUR WINEMAKING PHILOSOPHY
Our low-intervention, Traditional Method, Vintage Sussex Sparkling wines are a true expression of our terroir. Produced from hand-harvested grapes that are whole-bunch pressed and patiently matured, on lees and in bottle to develop rich, autolytic notes, with a low dosage that emphasises the purity of our fruit. We aim to preserve the wonderful natural flavours of the grapes with as little intervention as possible.
Discover our portfolio of
SUSSEX SPARKLING WINES
At Rathfinny we produce four vintage, traditional method English sparkling wines – Blanc de Noirs, Blanc de Blancs, Rosé and Classic Cuvée.
Blanc de Noirs
Our most prestigious Sussex Sparkling wine made from predominantly Pinot Noir grapes grown and hand-harvested on the Rathfinny Wine Estate.
Blanc de Blancs
Made from a blend of predominantly Burgundy clones of Chardonnay grapes grown and hand-harvested on the Rathfinny Wine Estate.
A Pinot Noir dominated Sussex Sparkling wine, with a red-fruit style that beautifully showcases the increased presence of Pinot Noir within the blend.
Our 'house-style' Sussex Sparkling. Made from Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier and Chardonnay grapes grown and hand-harvested on the Rathfinny Estate.
The time-honoured methods for making sparkling wine, developed over centuries in the Champagne region of France and elsewhere, are being adopted and refined at Rathfinny.
Our single-site Vineyard is tended to by our Vineyard Manager, Cameron Roucher, and his team. The main grape varieties planted at Rathfinny are Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and Pinot Meunier.
Traditional winemaking processes are under the careful control of our Winery Manager, Tony Milanowski. Sussex Sparkling wine is crafted in the Traditional Method, where the secondary fermentation takes place in the bottle, after which it is left to age on the yeast lees for a minimum of 15 months to develop wonderful autolytic notes. On occasion, some fermentation and/or ageing takes place in oak barrels to develop even more complexity.
A YEAR IN THE WINERY
Discover a year in our Winery and what it takes to make outstanding, world-class sparkling wine.
Aside from the seasonal work, our production teams are always busy preparing our sparkling wines for release. Activities include riddling which uses 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.
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.
The start of the winemaking year. The grapes are ripe and the harvest begins. Our vineyard team is joined by 200 local people who help pick the fruit. The fruit is pressed into juice using our Coquard presses. The juice is split into two quality types, the Cuvee (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, this can take quite some time, but the Winery team is hard at work ensuring the wines are kept in the best possible condition. The winemaker starts to evaluate the sparkling wines from previous vintages assessing when they should be released. Dosage trials are conducted on those wines selected for release in the coming year.
Malolactic fermentation has now finished, and the wines can settle and mature. The winemaker 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 are now blended, stable and ready for bottling. The winemaker adds sugar and yeast to the wine in tank just before bottling. The wines are bottled under a crown cap and moved to our cellars. They gently go through fermentation in their bottles; this is how we get the bubbles in our wines. The second fermentation can take a couple of months to finish, but we allow the wines to mature for far longer, often two or 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.
Find out more about our Seven Sisters Spirits and Cradle Valley still wines.
THE Sussex PDO
The establishment of a Sussex wine PDO (Protected Designation of Origin) ensures that Sussex wines will continue to be considered among the very best in the world. The tighter rules reflect the quality of wine made in Sussex, ensuring provenance and quality.