Rathfinny Wine Estate

Are we making a mark in history?

On returning from a family holiday to Champagne, France, I was awakened to the history that surrounds winemaking.

It was my first visit to Champagne and my first real look at its history and how champagne came about. Coming from New Zealand where there are wineries on nearly every street corner, I never realised or thought about the fact that grape growing and winemaking has been around for so long. The wine industry in New Zealand is reasonably new in comparison, as we are a very young country. We grow and make amazing wines, but nothing remarkable was founded there.

We visited Rue De Champagne (a very nice road in Epernay, that situates all of the Champagne Houses) and stopped off at Moet & Chandon to take a guided tour through their 17 miles of underground cellars. The tour started in the house of founder Claude Moet, with a brief history of the beginning of Moet, in front of a rather large oil painting of Claude himself.


Over 250 years ago, Claude Moet’s vision was to transform a prestigious but little known regional wine, into a favourite of people throughout Europe. It was however, his grandson, Jean-Remy (also in large oil painted form) who took Moet out into the world and made the wine and himself famous.

Sounding all so familiar?!

It was in the car travelling home that I discussed making a mark in history. I think of history makers as a thing of the past, things have been done already. It suddenly dawned on me that being a part of Rathfinny, we are all creating something that in many years and generations later will be considered a huge part of English Wine history.

I came away from Epernay with an insight into old and new, and how Rathfinny is merging the two. Using traditional winemaking methods in a new world wine environment, Rathfinny is creating a sparkling wine, and it’s English! Growing vines over the largest single site vineyard in England and aiming to produce over one million bottles per year….that to me is making a mark in history.

Along with the success of their champagne, it was Moet who pioneered some of the great traditions we still see. The ritual of sabering the bottle, the tower of champagne glasses, the christening of ships and of course the car racing celebration of spraying the crowd in champagne. So, those have already been traditions done, but soon there will be no need to reach across the channel to celebrate triumphant moments, when these moments can be celebrated with an English Sparkling, making them even more spectacular as it’s home-grown. Rathfinny in the future, I’m sure will have its pioneering moments.

250 years later……Is when founders Mark and Sarah Driver, posing, from their large framed oil painting, welcome visitors to the Rathfinny Cellars. What we do as a company now will be remembered years later. Now, to get the Drivers to sit for their historical oil painting…….It’s a must in history for the founders of great things!

Nikki Roucher – Manager, Gun Room

Read Nikki's Article


Alfriston is undergoing essential mains water replacement and there is no through access from 3rd January – 30th May. Click below for alternative routes: