Rathfinny Wine Estate

Pruning 101

We’re still Pruning and it was suggested that we try and explain why we prune and how we prune the vines so what better way to do this than with a short video…

So we have produced a short video on pruning, with Rick Burrows from the vineyard explaining how, and why we prune:

http://youtu.be/jZ8leB52c7M

While all the tasks in the vineyard are important nothing is more critical than pruning. There are a four main reasons we prune:

Read Cam's Article

Cuckmere Valley Flooding

The Rathfinny Wine Estate is located just to the west of the Cuckmere Valley.

I came here as a child on a geography field trip to look at the meandering river and the iconic ox-bow lakes. I’m sure many other students have done the same over the years as the Cuckmere attracts over 400,000 visitors a year.  Well those ox-bow lakes are now at risk because the Environment Agency (EA) decided in 2009 to give up on maintaining the sea defenses and wants the area below the A259, the Cuckmere Haven, to become a “self-sustaining system”. However, there is a problem with this plan because the shingle on the beach keeps shifting. All the modeling of water flows and the like can’t predict what will happen to shingle that blocks off the river mouth and prevents the river from emptying properly, so we get flooding up the valley, as you can see.

Read Mark's Article

Fining

The wines from the 2014 harvest are currently “resting”. After they finished both fermentations (alcoholic and malolactic), they were racked off their lees and transferred into different tanks, along with a slight readjustment of the sulphur level to prevent oxidation and control microbiological activity. The wines were then left to settle even more.

When I take samples, the wines are now already looking clean, there is no more of the typical haze that can be seen just after fermentations. Now is the time for fining trials where I try different fining agents and assess how they affect the wine. The principle of fining is to remove undesirable components of the wine by agglomeration/flocculation and then sedimentation.

Read Jonathan's Article

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year!

I spent most of the festive period on the Estate. It was a quiet time for me and gave me time to reflect on what has been achieved in restoring the Flint Barns to what we have today. So much hard work, dedication and passion has been put in by so many people. It also gave me time to think about the exciting future ahead for us all here on the Estate.

The main news is that the Flint Barns website is about to go live!  You will soon be able to see how gorgeous it is inside, get information on the accommodation available, at reasonable prices, read about our locally sourced, home made food and make a plan to come and visit this ‘home away from home.’  It’s ideally placed for those who want to visit the area and walk the South Downs.  At the moment there’s contact information for bookings but you’ll be able to do it online from the end of January.

Read Ade's Article

Sussex Sparkling PDO

New Year is a time for reflection and New Year’s resolutions. Mine normally revolve around losing weight and getting fit, after a period of excess it makes sense to have a few days off alcohol and try and shed a few kilos. However, this year is slightly different.

2015 starts with us moving into production and sales mode. We have spent four years planting and building and now we leave that behind us, for now, and we can start building the market for our wines. That is partly why we are working to establish a PDO for Sussex Sparkling.

Read Mark's Article

It’s Pruning Time!

While we haven’t started pruning for real yet, we have done a little bit to get our eye in before we really get started after the holidays.

This is the first year we can truly feel like we are pruning for a real purpose. The vines are now getting bigger; they have grown more this past season than any other, and we are starting to refine our techniques and systems of pruning.

We ‘cane prune’ all the vines, because in our cooler climate the lower buds of the vine are less fruitful and will generally have less vigour than a lot of vineyard sites, partly due to our shallow soils.

When you prune, you have to keep in mind not just the season just gone, but what we want to see the coming season and following season after that.

Pruning is both complex and a simple process at the same time.

Read Cam's Article

‘Tis the Season!

In my previous blog, I mentioned that most wines were dry, meaning that all the sugars had been consumed. Well, ALL our lots are now dry. At the time, 6 weeks ago, none of the lots had started the malolactic fermentation – the conversion of malic acid to lactic acid – which gives the wine a “buttery” quality: they are now nearly all through this process as well. The last lot is lagging a bit because it is quite a large volume compared to the already finished lots, but is expected to finish malolactic fermentation this week. Healthy bubbling from the malolactic activity can be seen here:

IMG_2178

Things are going according to plan, which means that we’ll be able to rack this final lot off its lees, and let it settle further. In the meantime, we will start fining trials, using different fining agents and assessing the results through laboratory analysis as well as sensory evaluation. This will leave me enough time to spend Christmas in France tasting Champagne. As rigorous analysis is required, this may have to happen every day! I will bring some English sparkling to share with fellow winemakers.

As Will, my assistant during the last three months, is leaving in early January to work the vintage in Australia, I am trying to get things done before he’s gone, because after this I will be on my own again! Will has been very helpful and I wish him all the best in his endeavours in the South Hemisphere – so good luck, and don’t forget to come back!

To all, a Merry Christmas and a Happy (Bubbly) New year!

Jonathan Médard – Winemaker

Read Jonathan's Article

Dickensian Night

A couple of weeks ago it was Dickensian night in Alfriston village, the Dickensian event is held every year late on in November. All the shops and community take part with many people dressing up in authentic clothing of alpaca fabric which is kind of warm but great for a good winter; the high street is full of events and stalls to suit everyone, young and old.  The Gun Room was open for everyone to come in and either browse the products in the shop, talk to the staff about Rathfinny Wine Estate, The Flint Barns or try some of our special “Cloves Spiced Sussex Sparkling” Everyone had a great evening telling all of the people about the exciting developments at the estate.

10806185_327718764080316_4582715621886652124_n

On Friday, 14th November, we held our Harvest Staff Dinner at the Flint Barns. To start off with a full team meeting was held to discuss present & future plans and also to answer the questions that some of us had, it was a great meeting that was really informative, it will be something we will certainly conduct twice a year in the future. After the team meeting everyone went their separate ways to get changed and pick up their partners for our meal. It is the first time I have be here when all the staff and their partners are all together, a really fun evening was had by everyone.

The website for the Flint Barns is coming along nicely and I hope to have the pages up and running in a week or so & I’m really hoping to be open and ready for bookings by 9th & 10th January 15

Spike, my Parsons, absolutely loves life on the Estate, he’s never had so much to dig for, to chase, to bark at or even to run away from – when the seagulls gang up and go for him he’s off. A couple of weeks ago a new terrier moved in on another part of the estate, Harry is his name and at the moment they are just getting used to each other but have great fun running around chasing each other, certainly tires Spike out.

004

Whilst working in the Gun Room on Dickensian Day I managed to have a good look around the products of the shop, my favourite candles are still there but selling quickly.  There is also a fantastic range of new food products, they are certainly worth a look at as I’m sure they would make fabulous little stocking filler with Christmas just around there corner.

Don’t forget the Gun Room is having an “Open House” this Sunday 7th December with 10% off the prices; it’s certainly worth popping in to view.

I won’t be back until 2015, so I’d like to take this opportunity to wish you all a fabulous Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Adrian Lamb – Flint Barns Manager

Read Ade's Article

Dear Father Christmas…

We’ve had a really busy time in the Gun Room preparing for Christmas and re-arranging the layout.  Regular visitors will notice that we now have two new, dedicated sections on the Estate Tours and the Flint Barns and they’ll also notice the brand new stock.

Rathfinny Xmas (1024x682)

Come and see for yourself!

We’ve having an ‘Open House’ on Sunday, 7th December, 10.00 am until 4.00pm, where you can enjoy a glass of English Sparkling Wine as you browse and take advantage of the 10% discount that we’re offering.  In particular, look out for

  • Estate Tour Vouchers – perfect for those people in your life that you always struggle to know what to buy.

                “ The whole experience was uplifting, informative and motivational”

  • You can buy a voucher in a beautiful presentation box for either  a Winemaker’s Lunch or an Estate Tea Tour.  As part of a small group (maximum 16) the Tour includes a walk through the vineyard where our experts will talk not only about Rathfinny and our vines but also about the land and the wildlife on our part of the South Downs.  See our brand new presses and shiny stainless steel tanks and learn about the process of making Sussex Sparkling wine before having a super lunch or tea in our new Tasting Room.  This really is an exclusive offer; whilst there are footpaths across the land there is no other way to see the vines up close or the Winery and Tasting Room.
  • Winemakers Lunch Tour £55 per person and Afternoon Tea Tour £35 per person. If you come along on the 7th December and purchase vouchers you will receive 10% discount. http://rathfinnyestate.com/visit/tours/ Alternatively if you can’t come and see us you can book vouchers online (discount only applies in store)
  • Flint Barns our “home from home” is nearly open- come and chat with us about how you can come and stay in the Flint Barns.  Our website goes live in the New Year.
  • Our section aimed at the man in your life – gifts he will really appreciate this Christmas – cufflinks, cocktail bar (!) and much more
  • Delicious treats, luxury chocolates, slow baked Dottato Figs, Grape Nectar, Ouse Valley jams and chutneys. We’ll happily make up hampers at no extra charge.

Hampers  (1024x682)

  • Our books on wine – there’s something for everyone from World Atlas of Wine to Wine Makes Mummy Clever!
  • Brand new range Noble Isle is a high-performing bath and body range that uses the finest fragrance and natural extracts, and the best of British design, to create a lasting sensory impression.
  • For the woman in your life – try our luxury Caudalie range. All the ingredients come from grapes, vines, leaves and seeds and are transformed into these luxurious, premium products. Hand crafted pots, prints by local artists, a warm blanket to snuggle up in front of the fire with – the list goes on – you’ll just have to come and see for yourself!

Sarah Driver – shop dresser extraordinare

Read Sarah's Article

Contains Sulphites – how to avoid a headache?

Last week I was at a dinner sitting next to a nutritionist, when I offered to pour her a glass of red wine she said, “Oh no I don’t drink red wine it give me a headache.” Why is that I asked? “I think it’s because of the Sulphites.”

So I thought I’d use our blog to explain why winemakers use sulphites and why it is unlikely to be the cause of your headache after drinking that bottle of cheap Chilean red last night.

Coincidentally, as I was clearing out my office (she who must be obeyed’s new edict) I came across a scribbled note about sulphites in my Plumpton College notes and how it’s often histamines, rather than sulphites, that cause headaches.

So what is a sulphite and why is it in wine? Sulphur dioxide (SO2) is used as an anti-oxidant in wine. If you cut an apple and leave it for any length of time the exposed flesh will turn brown, this is oxidation. When grapes are first pressed the exposed juice (or must) can quickly turn brown in colour unless you protect it from the oxygen in the air. Winemakers protect the juice in several ways; in most wineries you rapidly chill the grape juice (or must) after pressing and in most wineries you add SO2 in the form of Potassium metabisulphite or PMBS. I can still hear Tony Milanowski, our lecturer at Plumpton College, shouting, “It’s not Sulphur”. It’s called a sulphite because it’s a compound of sulphur.  Just for the record SO2 is also an anti-microbial and can prevent or stop fermentation.

So SO2 is used at various stages in the wine making process, including in many organic wines to stop wine from spoiling, however, its use is restricted and all wines sold in the UK have SO2 levels tested prior to sale.  Legal limits for wines vary – in white and rosé wine it is 180mg/l and in red it’s 150mg/l.  The World Health Organisation guideline is that we consume no more that 700mg/kg of body weight, so you’d have to drink a lot of wine to get above that level!  However, it’s also used as a preservative in many other products from meat to vegetables and soft drinks so cumulatively it can all add up.

IMG_2007

Generally wines contain between 50-100mg/l of SO2, it helps preserve the quality of wine, and will have very little effect on your health and probably won’t be responsible for your headache, so don’t worry about it unless you are especially sensitive or have a specific allergy to sulphites.

However, many foods and drinks that are fermented or aged, like old cheese and wine will contain histamines. Spinach and tomatoes also contain histamines, as does beer.  Generally red wine will have more histamine levels but these vary from as low as 3 micrograms per litre in some white wines, to 3800 micrograms /l in some red wines.

High concentrations of histamines in wine, above 2000micrograms/l are seen as dangerous to health and can cause headaches, migranes and other allergic reactions, but winemakers don’t need to declare on the side of the bottle that a wine ‘Contains Histamines’.

So how’s it caused?   (Now you can skip over this bit if you wish and jump to the next paragraph on ‘how to avoid a headache’). It’s created by the presence of histidine decarboxylase in some lactic acid bacteria (LAB) and can be created by various strains of LAB, which may occur naturally in the wine or be used to induce what’s called malolatic fermentation. However, certain strains of LAB produce significantly less histamine that others. So it can be controlled, to a certain extent, by the winemaker.

So how do I avoid the hangover? Well unfortunately, or fortunately, it’s a question of trial and error. Buy better quality wine because generally it’s better made – my experience is that cheap red wines give you a bigger headache.  As red wine has higher concentrations of histamines try and stick to a producer you have tried before and had no problems with or drink white and sparkling wine as they have lower histamine levels. And drink water.

So the message is drink less, but better quality, well made wine and drink water as well.

My old English teacher Jack Tarr, as well as reciting poetry whilst doing a headstand on his desk, would always tell us to have a pint of water before going to bed. At my age that causes problems. So drink a Sussex Sparkling because it’s less likely to cause a headache!

Mark Driver

 

Read Mark's Article

End of Season

Another season draws to a close for the vineyard.

The vineyard is winding down, we had our first frost this morning, giving everyone a bit of a shock considering what a warm autumn we’ve had.

The fruit has been harvested, and its juice is now slowly bubbling away in the winery, and I’ve never seen Jonathan happier. Finally he has a chance to be in his element doing what he’s here to do.

All the development blocks are now finished with posts and wire, the guys in the vineyard can finally do something else!

IMG_9894

It’s a quite time of year for the vineyard, doing all those jobs that we’ve been too busy to do through out the year, catching up on much needed maintenance, cleaning the barns out, and generally getting things in order before winter sets in proper.

Given the temperature’s we’ve been having we’re madly trying to get as much grass seed in before we loose the opportunity. Its always a battle in Autumn to get as much of the vineyard grassed down as possible before A) it gets too cold, and/or B) it gets too wet. We’re right at the end of the weather window at the moment, we just need a few more dry days…

Cameron Roucher – Vineyard Manager

Read Cam's Article

Hijacking Rathfinny blog

For those of you who regularly read our blog, you may have noticed a distinct absence of news from me. It is not because I have been doing nothing, but rather that I have been doing a lot and I am shamelessly hijacking our Rathfinny blog to tell you about it!

Many of you will know that I have been actively involved in the world of dyslexia for many years now, that our Trust is part of the national Dyslexia SpLD Trust and that I have lobbied hard to change the way teachers are trained in this country.  It is estimated that 10% of the population are dyslexic,  that’s 3 children on average in every class.

The Fish in the Tree report that we published last year, showed that 74% of teachers didn’t feel that they’d been trained with the skills necessary to teach those with dyslexia, yet 84% thought it was important that they had this training.

The problem isn’t just about dyslexia – it’s about teachers having the skills to teach any child who struggles with literacy.  The national statistics show we have a problem:

  • 1 in 4 children fail to master the basics of writing in primary school.
  • 1 in 9 children fail to master the basics of reading in primary school.
  • A third of pupils did not reach a grade C in English GCSE last year.
  • We have 6 million functionally illiterate adults in the UK, unable to read a tin of baked beans!

Over the past 5 years I’ve been working with Ark schools to put in place a literacy programme that addresses this.  It’s called Drive for Literacy. None of it is rocket science but what makes it different is that it addresses the problem from a whole school perspective, from senior leadership recognising the need for their teachers to understand that some children have literacy problems like dyslexia and that there is merit in addressing this.  Teachers are trained, children are screened, interventions are put in place and parents are consulted.  So far, it’s had really encouraging results, with these children with a SEN (special educational need) achieving almost as well as other children without issues do nationally on their phonics test, and over twice as well as other children with SEN in our country.

Today, we’ve launched a website www.driveforliteracy.co.uk that details Drive for Literacy and offers easy to access, free resources for teachers, parents and dyslexic pupils.  There’s a series of short films, the most poignant I think is ‘What it feels like to be dyslexic’ – and you may recognise some of the participants!!

Why am I telling you this?  I need your help to spread the word to schools and teachers you know, parents of dyslexics and other dyslexics.

How?

Join the campaign:

The #YouKnowADyslexic campaign includes a video endorsement from Eddie Izzard, who is himself dyslexic: Win a sausage (and learn about dyslexia).

The Trust is encouraging everyone to support the campaign:

·       Tweet using the hashtag #YouKnowADyslexic – take a picture!

·       Follow @DriverTrust on twitter

·       Download free resources from www.driveforliteracy.co.uk

Tell all your friends and especially any teachers and parents with children with dyslexia about this free resource.

Thank you

Sarah Driver

Read Sarah's Article

So long, “new winery smell”

IMG_9607

We harvested some nice Chardonnay and Pinot Blanc grapes and we successfully commissioned our 4 tonne Coquard press with “whole clusters”. The juice came out quite clear, as expected.

IMG_9779

The juice was transferred by gravity to settling tanks, where we let it settle for about 24 hours. After this, the juice was racked off its lees into a tank where it was inoculated with selected yeast.

IMG_9785

Since then, the winery has been filled with the nice—or I should say exquisite—smell of fermenting juice.

The temperature control system has proven efficient, which means that we were able to keep the fermenting wine at a constant temperature to allow for a steady fermentation. Remember, during the alcoholic fermentation, yeast metabolise sugars and convert them into alcohol and CO2, as well as energy, in the form of heat. Left unmanaged, the temperature can get to a level that is lethal to yeast. We were able to control the temperature of the fermentation in the tanks. Here you can see the foam from healthy yeast activity:

IMG_2085

About half of the wine lots are now technically “dry”, which means that all the sugars have been consumed. The other half is getting close, but they will need another couple of days.

The dry wines are now kept at just over 20°C in order to promote lactic bacteria, which will then initiate the malolactic fermentation, during which malic acid will be converted into lactic acid. While yeast can ferment at low temperatures, around 12°C, bacteria need a warmer environment to thrive, between 20°C and 25°C. This is when being able to keep tanks warm is VERY useful.

I’m now closely monitoring the decrease in malic acid concentration in the wines. Once the concentration is down to zero, we’ll put the wines to “sleep” and start the process of clarifying/fining and stabilizing – this will likely happen mid-December.

We’ll keep you posted on the progress!

Jonathan Médard – Winemaker

Read Jonathan's Article

Looking Fabulous

As I’m writing this blog it is blowing a gale and tipping down with rain outside – that glorious Indian summer disappeared pretty quickly and autumn is definitely here. Before it arrived though, I caught some early morning sunrises in the valley.

2014-10-06 07.04.04

 

Progress at the Flint Barns is proceeding nicely and we are in the final stages with a few minor adjustments and also some outstanding snagging that needs to be finished off. Currently we are also working towards a major update with regards to the Flint Barns website and social media; it will include a large gallery of pictures so you can really see just how beautiful the Flint Barns are.

We’ve had the pleasure of meeting up with a few schools over the last few weeks and given them a grand tour of the Flint Barns. I have to say that all of them have been blown away with the quality of what we are offering – and I assume they are very pleased, as we have had bookings from the schools for 2015. It’s going to be such an awesome place for school children of all ages to come on an educational trip, a real home away from home to experience the countryside right in the middle of one of the UK’s largest Vineyards.

IMG_9441

Last Sunday I spent the day working at the Gun Room, our retail outlet for Rathfinny Wine Estate and the Heritage Centre for Alfriston and the Cuckmere Valley. I was working with Kristina and it was a really enjoyable day. Kristina was fabulous with the customers giving every person an excellent level of customer service, exactly what I want the team in the Flint Barns to offer to all of our customers too. They have some scented candles (http://www.rewinedcandles.com/) in stock and the spiced cider was my favourite one – I’m definitely going to buy a couple of them for Christmas. Pop in to the Gun Room if you are in Alfriston and have a sniff of the spiced cider, you’ll love it for sure.

There are also some spaces left for our last Estate tours of 2014, well worth the visit as we have now completed our harvest and the Winery is starting to smell like a winery should do. You can book the tour ticket either online at www.rathfinnyestate.com or by visiting or calling the Gun Room on 01323 870022 – if you can’t make it for the end of this month then we are also selling Gift Vouchers for 2015, a perfect present for Christmas.

IMG_9302

 

Adrian Lamb – Flint Barns Manager

 

Read Ade's Article