I’m aware I haven’t written a blog for ages, so apologies all round. I thought I’d give a quick ‘catch up’ that cover my areas of the business (all the client facing part) – though with Mark sailing somewhere across the Atlantic – it’s all mine for the next few weeks!
Dickensian evening, Alfriston – this Saturday, 21st November from 2pm (please note, the roads nearby will close from 1pm but there are park and rides available – check www.alfriston-village.co.uk). The Gun Room will be open until 7pm, serving our traditional Dickensian drink, Sussex Sparkling with a homemade spiced syrup to warm you up. The shop is full of all our new stock so make the time to have a browse.
As yet another harvest has come to an end, I sit down and reflect on how things went this year, looking for ways to improve the way we process fruit. So far the only thing that I wished had gone better is… the weather! We had poor summer but a great autumn. I think capricious weather, especially here, will always be the challenge of winemakers and viticulturists (Cameron, there is no way you disagree with this!?).
I’m in all sorts of trouble as I forgot to invite several people down to help with picking over the last two weeks..Sorry, I’ll try and remember next year! But save the date for 2016 “Mid-October Harvest at Rathfinny”.
However, we had some fantastic support over the last two weeks from local people responding to an ad in the local paper. All were really enthusiastic with many saying they wanted to come back for pruning in the new year.
Just a quick blog this time, as we’re right in the middle of harvest and everything is looking good so far.
Tonnages are up on predictions, and we have a fabulous crew of pickers who are all local and from all walks of life. Special thanks to them they’ve been doing a great job, with many expressing an interest in coming back in future years for pruning and further work over next summer. Its great to have such a happy English speaking crew who despite the miles they put in each day always have a smile on their faces.
I’ll let the pictures do the rest of the talking.
Harvest is just around the corner for Rathfinny Wine Estate and the tension is mounting!
While Jonathan Médard prepares and Cameron nurtures, other diverse things are happening on the Estate. Last month saw the launch of the South Downs Food and Drink Portal (http://www.southdownsfood.org) at our Winery. The portal is an interactive website where you can search for local food and drink providers, businesses and places to visit. Rathfinny sources as much of its food and drink from local providers as we can and it was great to meet so many more at this event, make new connections and of course try their produce (a number of times, just to make sure!)
Harvest at Rathfinny isn’t far away now and there is a buzz of excitement going on around the Estate. I hope to get out in the vines to give a hand with this year’s harvest at some stage. There’s also a buzz going on at the Flint Barns, last weekend was our busiest in the café with over 80 people coming to enjoy the Rathfinny Trail, great food, stunning views, a chilled bottle of our Cradle Valley wine and of course our friendly staff. The cafe will still be open until Sunday 1st November every Friday, Saturday & Sunday 10am to 4pm – why not pop over and pay us a visit. We are also going to be open every day during the half term week 26th Oct – 30th Oct.
We have to be honest it wasn’t the best of summers. It started off well and I read that average annual global temperatures are set to hit a high this year. August was the hottest on record, but as you’ll read from the picture on this link, whilst Europe was bathed in record temperatures during August, the UK was slightly cooler than average. https://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/sotc/service/global/extremes/201508.gif
Farmers love to moan about the weather but this year’s summer was a bit damp and cold. We are now about 2 weeks behind last year and we don’t anticipate harvesting our classic varieties (Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Meunier) until late October. We have some great fruit but it needs a few more weeks to ripen.
This year vs last year..
The Gun Room on the Tye in Alfriston is our Cellar Door. It’s where you can taste and buy our wine and other wine related products, and book vineyard tours.
Situated in the heart of Alfriston, the Sussex Heritage Award winning Gun Room has proved a very popular destination for visitors to the village, partly because we gave over the entire upstairs space to create a Heritage Centre; a permanent exhibition on the history of Alfriston and the Cuckmere Valley.
As I sit here writing this blog, it’s raining outside in biblical proportions, 37mm of rain this morning on top of the 25mm we had last night. The winery drains are flooding, the vineyard is too wet to drive a tractor on, in fact there are rivers running down some rows- I thought this was summer?
Now that flowering is well and truly over it’s time to start our first part of yield estimations. Bunch counts, which is actually just as it sounds, counting bunches is hardly the most riveting job, but is a good way to get a decent estimation of what fruit we have hanging on the vines. It’s also an interesting way to see the variability between the individual clones and their different growth habits. We have 10 different clones in the Pinot Noir alone, and the differences are quite marked.
Over the years many people for many reasons have carved figures into the chalk – from the Cerne Abbas Giant, Long Man of Wilmington and White Horse in the Cuckmere Valley near Alfriston, these dramatic ‘carvings’ have become both iconic and in some cases mysterious.
Rathfinny Estate are on a journey to produce internationally renowned sparkling wine, and now we have our own chalk work of art.
Ours is steeped in local history. Firstly, the shield itself – this has come from the Sussex county flag which depicts six martlets (these are heraldic swallows, and I can’t help thinking of the scene in Monty Pythons Holy Grail when they discuss air speed velocity of a Barn Swallow flying with a coconut – I’m not sure a heraldic swallow would get to Africa wearing a gold crown!). I digress.
I keep being told that this is ‘typical English summer’, which is defined as “two fine days then a thunderstorm”. But I have memories of the long hazy days with parched lawns and the red shoulders of my youth and somehow this doesn’t feel that typical. So I checked back and those blistering summers are certainly a rarity not the norm – 1911, 1933, 1959, 1976 (I remember that one) and 1995. Perhaps the norm is a two or three mini-heatwaves followed by a thunderstorm?
Wow! What can I say? What a weekend that was! Can I first of all thank everyone who came and supported us, for those who trusted me when I said – Conchord are exceptional, Conchord at Rathfinny will be special – you won’t be disappointed.
“I cannot recall a musical occasion that I have enjoyed so much and I have been to many.”
“I think that was simply the happiest and most stimulating weekend I have had for at least 21 years!”
“Rathfinny proves to be the PERFECT backdrop for Conchord–and LIFE!
I was out last night with a couple of my Rathfinny colleagues, we went out on a nice little bike ride around High & Over and then to Firle Beacon, down to the Old Coach Road and back to Alfriston – we stopped in one of the locals and had a great beer from the local Longman Brewery, a perfect evening! High & Over is a truly great place for walking too – often Spike & I can be found around there having our evening walks that lead down to the Rathfinny Trail, which is a fantastic walk around some of the vines and past the Flint Barns, all the signage is in place to guide you along the trail and you end up walking to the Flint Barns Café.
Wednesday, 17th June was a very exciting day at Rathfinny Estate as we bottled roughly 5,600 bottles of our first sparkling wine! We’re not bottling one million bottles a year yet, but that will come faster than we think.
The base wine already had about 11% v/v alcohol, and we added sugar for the second fermentation, which will increase alcohol by 1,5% v/v. A critical factor for this bottling was the preparation of a good yeast culture.