Rathfinny Wine Estate

Spring’s arrived….

After what has been the wettest winter since records began it is a relief to have a bit of sunny weather. My daughter has taken to posting pictures of blue sky on Instagram and we stare in awe at the night sky seeing stars again.

So the question I’m asked the most at the moment is, ‘how has the wet weather affected the vines?’

Flint Barns feb14

Well the honest answer is that apart from some soil erosion as you can see from the picture above, the fields look white as the chalk becomes more exposed, the main effect of the rain is that it has been very hard to get things done. Typically during January and February, as explained in Cameron’s latest blog, we are pruning our vines. However, pruning vines in the rain spreads diseases so we have had to wait for dry days. Consequently we are about two weeks behind on pruning and we are about three weeks behind on the building work on the Flint Barns which will provide accommodation for seasonal workers. However, the main problem this winter for us has been the wind. We had gale after gale to contend with. We lost a chunk off the roof of one of our grain barns and it has slowed down the contractors who are putting up temporary wind breaks. During the last severe gale, eight posts were bent over, when wind speeds of over 120mph were recorded on the Isle of Wight!

Alfriston has also suffered. Luckily the Environment Agency dredged the entrance to the Cuckmere just prior to the worst of the rain and so, although the entrance to Alfriston village was closed for a while due to flooding, the Cuckmere was emptying reasonably well, until the storms moved the shingle along the beach again and closed off the entrance. I hope the EA look at dredging the Cuckmere river around Alfriston and keep dredging the entrance otherwise Alfriston will be lost under water.

Wet Cuckmere

However, we are now seeing real signs of spring and although the winter was very wet it has been very mild. We haven’t had any really cold weather at all and lately the vineyard crew are almost in T-shirts again. Spring bulbs have burst out and the buds on the vines are noticeably swelling. If it stays this way we could have an early bud-burst, which is good for the season but worrying as we might get a late frost.

Lastly – we have been active on Twitter recently highlighting how much tax is paid on wine in the UK.

As you can read on the Baudoc Blog – http://blog.bauduc.com/2014/02/11/why-the-uk-duty-on-wine-is-unfair/ – over 57% of the cost of the average bottle of wine is tax. We have one of the highest rates of duty on wine of any country in Europe and we pay VAT on top of this excise duty!

The problem started in 2008 when Alistair Darling introduced a duty escalator on wine, beer and spirits. This was meant to last for four years but was extended on wine and spirits in 2013 by George Osborne. It means that duty rises by 2% above the rate of inflation, so duty has risen by over 54% over the last five years! It’s about time we called time on this horrendous rise in excise duty.

Mark Driver

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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

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Pruning expectations

Managing a vineyard is as much about managing expectations as it is managing vines.

Pruning is a typical case, what can sometimes look like a harsh haircut is in fact the best thing for the vine. On the other hand a poorly pruned vine may take some years to recover, which is why it is so important to get right.


Pruning is single-handedly the most expensive operation in a vineyard and the most important part of the growing season. It determines how much fruit the vine will try to crop, and how many shoots it will grow. This is the key factor in managing the growth and potential fruit for the coming season, as vines will only produce fruit from one-year-old wood.


While there is often expectation to see a crop early from the vines this is often not a good idea, the vines have to be able to carry the fruit without putting stress on their system- its all about balance, and while the vines are young it is often difficult to predict the correct crop load.

In our case we are erring on the side of caution – we’ve had 2 unusual seasons (in the case of our older vines). The first year it was very wet during the growing season, which meant the root growth was minimal- which in turn means the shoot growth is minimal. The second season it was very dry during the growing season, which also means minimal root and shoot growth. This is why we are not pushing the vines to get too much fruit this year. We will have some, and while the quality will be there we won’t have huge tonnages.

Cameron Roucher – Vineyard Manager

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Wine drinkers: what role does the packaging of your wine and, more precisely, the label play in your decision to purchase? Does it influence your enjoyment of the product inside?

To me, label quality is very important. I have tasted fantastic wines with labels of mediocre quality (cheap paper, unimaginative design, neither classic nor original), but I often prefer a bottle that is nicely packaged. After all, the whole wine experience starts long before the liquid has been poured into a glass.

If a bottle is attractive, with a label on thick, textured paper, it lends an additional dimension to its enjoyment. The tactile sensation of the fingertips running along a finely embossed, debossed, or foiled label is an additional sensory component to evaluating a product.

Rathfinny is in the midst of designing its label and, as with other new brands I’ve been involved with in California, it is quite an exercise to achieve an elegant, informative, original label that both respects tradition yet stands alone.

Famous Champagne house Veuve Clicquot is, interestingly, suing an Italian sparkling producer because of label colour, which Veuve Clicquot views as an infringement on their iconic image: the yellow-orange Champagne label. Clicquot claims that the design and, specifically, the colour are too similar and would confuse customers.

My preliminary, non-legal viewpoint from online label images is that the prints on the labels are distinct, with only one commonality: the word Brut.  Particularly interesting is that this legal battle is being waged not against another Champagne brand (where one would think the real marketplace competition would be), but with what appears to be a small, seemingly innocent Italian sparkling producer.

At first glance, like in the image below, I see little room for confusion. But, as I browsed online for various pictures of either label, it is interesting to see how the difference in angle, lighting, and photography can influence our perception of the label. For online shoppers, it becomes increasingly clear how this may lead to consumer confusion.

The article I read on wine-searcher.com justifies my above opinion, as you will see that while both labels are a bright colour that would pop on a shelf, one is salmon, the other gold:


While the above appear to be printer’s proofs, when the Italian label is photographed in a different context (an actual label on a bottle in the real world), it’s easier to see possible room for confusion:

original-veuve Ciro Picariello

That said, I can see two other Champagne labels whose label colour closely resembles that of Veuve Clicquot’s iconic yellow-orange one, depending on photography:




Has Clicquot taken legal action against those colleagues/competitors as well? Not that I’ve heard. But the text is totally distinct, and each label here has a unique image unlikely to be confused with Cliquot. It is most likely a different colour in person.

Clearly, the digital environment offers a different consumer experience than shopping in person: browsing the shelves, touching the labels, seeing the real-life colours and logos. It can influence our decision to buy, or not buy. Where a product might be confused online, it might be totally distinct in person, or vice versa.

However, I maintain that, in order to understand the actual possibility of brand confusion, it must be done on a physical label, on bottle, in hand.

I guess what I am asking is: can anyone send me a bottle of each so I can make a proper assessment?

Jonathan Medard – Winemaker

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Flint Barns take shape

Another busy, varied week which started with a trip to the Home, Craft and Top Drawer exhibition at Earls Court with Georgia and Nikki.  Not only were we looking for ideas for the Gun Room’s spring and summer collections, we were on the look out for everything to fit out the Flint Barns.  After what seemed like miles of trekking down row after row of over-lit aisles, trying to keep up a pace, we left exhausted but full of ideas.

The Gun Room and Heritage Centre with its history of Alfriston and the Cuckmere Valley, has been a big success and Nikki and her team have done wonders in creating a stylish, peaceful place to escape, read and browse.  I for one am sold on the Caudalie range of beauty products (made from grape and vine extracts) – you may not recognise me, I look so young and radiant!  The candles, wine jellies, leather notebooks, gorgeous glasses, vases, books about Sussex – the list goes on and on – are soon to be supplemented by a new spring range and we are talking to local artists about new ideas.  Watch this space!


Equally exciting was my first visit to the Flint Barns since the roof has gone on.  It has really changed the space and made it seem much bigger.  Within the ‘body’ of the old barns, two floors have now appeared and you can really begin to see the vision.  It’s been, and will continue to be, a challenge.  I’m so glad we started work on them before the recent storms, as I’ve no doubt they wouldn’t be standing if we hadn’t.  (They were originally damaged in the 1987 hurricane).  As always, we are trying to mix the old with the new, keeping and restoring the original flint walls for example, yet creating windows that will allow the light to flood in.

We are aiming to achieve a comfortable, stylish ‘home’ that will house and feed up to 50 people at a time, be they seasonal workers tired from the vineyards, groups of school children who have spent the day exploring the Cuckmere Valley and the South Downs or a special interest group of 12 who have spent the day bird watching, painting or writing.  It’s an ambitious project – we’re not a hostel, but we’re not a hotel.  We hope to be a ‘home away from home’.


Final exciting ‘high’ of the week is that we have agreed to become sponsors of the Charleston Festival, a literary festival that runs between 16th – 26th May and again with Small Wonder, a short story festival in the autumn.  We aim to collaborate with them on a range of things as time goes by, so again, watch this space.

Sarah Driver

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Why does English Sparkling sell at a discount to Champagne?

One question we are often asked is why does English Sparkling Wine cost so much? I think we should be asking “why does English Sparkling wine cost less than Champagne?”

No one seems to question the price of French Champagne or alternatively question why many Prosecco’s are cheaper than Champagne and English Fizz! So I thought I’d try and explain and hopefully convince you that far from being expensive, English Sparkling Wine is in fact a bargain.

In the BBC’s recently aired “The 12 Drinks for Christmas”, drinking buddies Alexander Armstrong and Giles Coren ‘chose the booze that will give them their Christmas spirit’. They each chose a sparkling wine for Christmas day and tasted it against the other. Armstrong chose Bollinger Special Cuvée, a safe choice. A wonderful rich, premium Champagne, aged for over three years on the yeast lees and made predominantly of pinot noir with chardonnay and pinot meunier. Giles Coren chose an English Sparkling Wine – Gusbourne’s 2008 Brut Reserve, made predominantly of chardonnay with pinot noir and meunier. And guess what? When tasting the two wines side by side they both agreed that the Gusbourne was the preferred wine. This is nothing new. English fizz has won more awards in international competitions than any other wine region in the world over the last eight years. However, the most interesting thing for me is that Bollinger generally sells for £35 a bottle whilst Gusbourne costs £25.

So why do people keep saying that English Sparkling Wine is expensive? Perhaps they are comparing it with Prosecco or other new world fizz. So let me explain why you may not be comparing like with like, or apples with apples.

The reason is that English fizz is made in the “traditional or Champagne method”: the grapes are hand picked, the whole bunches are pressed in the same way, the juice is fermented in similar tanks, then the wine is bottled with a little sugar and yeast for its secondary fermentation and aged on the yeast lees for a length of time (generally 2-3 years). The secondary fermentation puts the bubbles in the wine! Yes, some English fizz is made of the grape variety Seyval Blanc, but the majority is made predominantly from the same classic three varieties (chardonnay, pinot noir and meunier) as Champagne. It therefore costs the same to produce, if not more, as we generally don’t have the same economies of scale as the French. Oh, and the excise duty and VAT involved is the same on both wines.

cellar taittinger

So why is Prosecco and certain other fizz cheaper? The main reason is that it that might not be made in the same “traditional method”. Prosecco is the coca-cola of the wine world. It is generally mass-produced in large tanks in what’s called the “Charmat or Italian method”. This means that the secondary fermentation (which puts the fizz in the wine) takes place in these large stainless steel tanks and the sparkling wine is then transferred into bottles under pressure. Whilst the “traditional or Champagne method” means that the secondary fermentation takes place in individual bottles over a number of years, not months. So please don’t compare English fizz to Prosecco, compare it to the Italian Franciacorta, which is made in the “traditional method” and interestingly costs £28-60 a bottle!

Next time you are looking for a sparkling wine to celebrate a special occasion, reach for the English and stop saying that English fizz is expensive. As Messrs. Armstrong and Coren discovered it’s actually very good value compared to French Champagne. It’s the same wine, made in the ‘traditional method’ and often considered better.

Wine made in the same method, on the same band of chalk, just 80-100 miles north of the Champagne region, often considered to be better than and priced at a 20-50% discount to the French stuff, sounds like a bargain to me!!

So perhaps it’s time we started saying “why does English Sparkling wine cost less than Champagne?”

Mark Driver

PS – Before you write and tell me how much you like Prosecco, or Cava, I’m not telling you that you shouldn’t or that they are not good wines. I’m not a wine snob, but please consider the differences rather than the similarity i.e. they are both fizzy, but certain wine producing methods cost more than others and lead to other benefits – bottled fermented wines yield finer bubbles, which last longer in the glass and have those yeasty characteristics and depth of flavour.

PPS – Have you visited our shop or the Heritage Centre yet in the Gun Room on the Tye  Alfriston?


Read Mark's Article

Grenada and back for Christmas

As many of you will have heard, I recently sailed across the Atlantic from the Canaries to Grenada in the Caribbean. It took us seventeen days and it was a real adventure.

I’d always wanted to cross the Atlantic, but in a comfortable boat with enough water and food, in a safe enough environment, in a boat designed for the task. So with six like-minded chaps we set off from Gran Canaria on the 22nd November in an Oyster 66 sailing yacht and headed south to find the elusive trade winds that are meant to blow you over the Atlantic. We sailed and motored south then west then south again and sadly we didn’t find the ‘Trades’ until we were six hundred miles from Barbados. We did catch lots of fish and read a few books on the way. Some of you might have followed our blog – http://goodwindsatalantic.wordpress.com


When we arrived in Grenada our wives had flown out to join us and we had a brief cruise up through the Grenadines to St. Lucia where we left the boat to fly home for Christmas.

We returned to a damp, stormy UK. Luckily the vines are resting at this time of year, and although our old cattle barn sustained a little damage and the Cuckmere flooded the valley and parts of Alfriston, the rest of Rathfinny got off lightly from the recent storms and luckily the new roof had been completed on the Flint Barns.

Flint Barns

I’d like to thank everyone at Rathfinny for all their hard work over the last year. We have achieved a lot in the last twelve months – we planted a further 20 hectares of vines and the vineyard team put up all the trellising. We completed the Winery building, removed all the overhead electricity cables running across the estate and replaced them with underground cables, and we opened the Gun Room, our store in the Alfriston. We started work on the seasonal workers accommodation at the Flint barns and got planning permission for a new entrance. It has been a very busy year.

Happy New Year to all and may the weather gods shine brightly on us for a more normal summer in 2014.

Mark Driver


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More than meets the eye

The Heritage Centre and our cellar door, the Gun Room, are now in full swing and just like any puppy they are simply ‘not just for Christmas’

Upstairs the Heritage Centre provides an insight to the wealth of history in the village of Alfriston and its surrounds.  There’s information on the history of wine with some key facts on its production in England.  This is enhanced by a time lapse film showing the rise of Rathfinny Wine Estate up from the Downs supported with some stunning still photography from Viv Blakey.

Going back downstairs and into the warmth of the oak clad cellar door (where in the future we will be selling our wine).  Now – we are all happy in the knowledge that Jonathan bathes in Beaujolais Nouveau.  But the power of wine does not stop there.  I always tell myself that a glass here and there is good for me, and now I know that wine and the mighty grape IS good for me!

I can consume it and wear it.  Thanks to Caudalie who produce a vast array of products made from grape stems, seeds and skins which form the basis of their skin care range.  Being a bloke I was rather sceptical of all the blurb.  Breaking away from the mould I decided to read the instructions (ingredients in this case).  As I’m not adverse to wearing pink, I can say that it is rather clever and from my point of view – natural.  And it works.

So now I have younger looking skin – what next?  Firstly, we need to gem up on our wine knowledge and that can be done with the hand picked selection of wine literature available or even tickle our nasal hairs with some olfactory obstacles in the form of a wine sensory kit.   But this is not as good as the real thing and for that you need some attractive looking receptacles.  There are glasses, goblets and decanters to suit all tastes and consumption levels.

Once replete with the beverages there are some fantastic champagne chocolates and the devilishly tasting Brix ‘slabs’ of chocolate specifically created to accompany wine.  Absolute heaven. (Did you know that Brix is the measure of sucrose in solution and more importantly the name of Jonathan’s dog? – Ed.)

So skin smooth, stomach sufficed and glass full.  Now to sit back, light a candle, read a book or just relax.  Did I mention there are wine smelling candles, leather bound folios and a myriad of other gifts?

In the future the Gun Room will also be the start and finish point for our Estate Tours and will also be holding specialist events so keep your eyes peeled for updates on the website and in our Newsletter.

Richard James – Trainee Assistant Shop Substitute

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As most of our avid readers will now know, we have come to the realisation that we do indeed have a windy site. The trees that we planted, some of them over 2 years ago are slowly growing up to provide shelter for the vines, but the problem being the operative word is slowly.

So we’re now installing windbreaks for our windbreaks.


With a start made toward the end of November, the guys from Negus Glass have been first setting out the lines and then drilling holes ready for the upright supports of the windbreaks- they even managed to find where our water main went, which has always been a bit of a mystery to its exact location.

Over the last couple of weeks they’ve been setting in the base steel, before the uprights go in. As we do get such strong winds these windbreaks have to be of a top standard and as a result are incredibly sturdy.

This is not a 5 minute job, these guys will be on site for the next 3 months.


Once finished we’ll have 4m high windbreaks, which should provide shelter for most of the vineyard, meaning we can finally get the growth that we’ve been waiting for on the vines. The other benefit being that it will allow our trees to grow up to their full potential, once this has happened we’ll then be able to recycle the windbreak for another part of the property to allow other trees to grow faster. The idea of the windbreaks is not to completely stop the wind, just slow it down to a level that we can live with, the product we are using will slow the speed down by 50%.


In terms of vineyard team, they as Richard mentioned in the last blog have been clearing scrub- and repairing the odd water main. It’s a quiet time of the year for the vineyard before we start pruning. It’s the time of year when everyone takes a well-earned break and we can catch up on all the essential maintenance and odd jobs that need doing.

Read Cam's Article

Clearing the Way.

Those fortunate to live in sight of the South Downs may feel that the Red Indians are in full swing at the moment as the skyline becomes peppered with small fires and the associated smoke (signals).

Don’t worry.  No need for the Lone Ranger just yet.  From October to the end of February is the ideal time to manage the internationally important chalk grassland which forms the back bone of the Downs.  During the winter, while so much wildlife lies dormant, we have a window of opportunity to clear any ‘unwanted’ vegetation.

Now the word ‘unwanted’ is a contentious one.  The vegetation we wish to see is the previously mentioned chalk grassland and its myriad of colours.  This can be lost if shrubs and trees such as blackthorn, hawthorn and bramble for example go unchecked.  Historically, the pressure of grazing animals would keep any ‘unwanted’ growth at bay.  Times have changed and it is now down to person power (and the odd chainsaw) to remove this vegetation and allow the flowers and grasses to thrive.  The areas of blackthorn and hawthorn are often referred to as scrub.  And with all things in life, it is a question of balance.  We would like some scrub, as it is important for all kinds of wildlife such as birds and butterflies for example.  Whereas too much scrub means the wonderful flowers are overshadowed and lose out – which affects all manner of things further up the food chain.

We are fortunate, that being within the South Downs National Park, we can utilise the highly skilled workforce which is the South Downs Volunteer Ranger Service.  Here are some of them after a great days work assisting us to restore our chalk grassland.  Thanks so much to them and we hope to see them again soon.

As our vines are dormant at the moment, the vineyard team have done an amazing job clearing the scrub.  The image below depicts the great lengths Health and Safety will go to make us less susceptible to harm.  Even our pitch forks have protective covers on the prongs.

But we do find the marshmallow protectors rather tempting.

After a good day cutting and burning a warm bath is always welcoming. From reading Jonathan’s blog I may just sink into a bath of Beaujolais instead….


Read Richard's Article

Beaujolais Nouveau!

I always make a point of tasting Beaujolais Nouveau—and it’s that time of the year again. Beaujolais Nouveau often gets a bad rap (sometimes deservingly so), but it’s more than that. It’s a celebration of the most recent harvest, and a time for community celebration. The pub next door to my house even offered a French cuisine menu to celebrate the release of the 2013 vintage, which was well received in my local Sussex community.

Beaujolais Nouveau is not a complex wine—after all, it is usually sold a mere six to eight weeks after being harvested—but nonetheless is an interesting wine, at least for being quite atypical. Because winemakers use whole berry carbonic maceration (anaerobic fermentation) instead of a crushed berry aerobic fermentation, the wine is driven on fruit aromas and lower tannin levels.

By keeping the berries whole or intact, in an environment artificially saturated in carbon dioxide, the fermentation process does not extract as many potential harsh compounds (tannins, for example), and the overall metabolism produces fruitier molecules compared to a “classic” fermentation.

In fact, it is technically very hard to achieve a pure carbonic maceration: filling a tank with several tonnes of grapes will automatically generate grape crushing because of the weight applied to the berries at the bottom of the tank. What occurs is that both anaerobic and aerobic fermentations occur simultaneously.

In practice, a tank is filled with whole berries and goes through carbonic maceration for a week or two. Then it is emptied, pressed, and the wine produced goes through the aerobic alcoholic fermentation.

Beaujolais Nouveau can be very soft and quite light. Some may say that it lacks of complexity, but what you are looking for when you taste such a wine is that it is simple, straight forward, and affordable. No snobbism there.

Frankly, I feel it can be nicer than some of the wines found in supermarkets in the same price segment. But if you don’t care so much about drinking it, maybe you would consider bathing in it?

Jonathan Médard – Winemaker

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I’m in trouble, should have done this by yesterday and instead I find myself doing it early on Saturday morning before we go on and beat the All Blacks later today, Cam! (Might have to edit this later!)

So what has been going on?  The Gun Room is up and running and we are having our first opening on Monday evening, to thank all those involved in the project.  Anthony Sherwin has done an incredible job, working with Martin Swatton, in designing the interior of the building so that it complements all our other designs on the Estate and blends ‘the old with the new,’ which is a recurring theme at Rathfinny, and Paynes Builders have been a delight to work with.

Nikki and Georgia have been working flat out for several weeks getting all the stock ready and this week have been concentrating on getting it on the shelves.  It looks fantastic, as I think you’ll agree.

gun room

Cellar Door heritage centre

Their attention to detail is incredible and Nikki, as the Manager, has really set the standard.  We’re also delighted to have recruited two new members of staff who we know will fit right in with the Rathfinny family.

So as well as interviewing prospective staff, what else have I been up to?  It’s the range of work that always amazes me.  I’ve been working on the Employment Handbook, ably assisted by my daughter, Faye. We’ve been battling with those crucial issues such as, under the heading ‘Appearance’, how do you encourage deodorant and yet say not so much perfume that it interferes with tastings in the future? Don’t get me started on the debates about tattoos (a personal bug bear of Mark’s, though I’m sure one of our kids has or will have one lurking away) or piercings.  All high-powered stuff!

Then there’s the Tasting Room, which has all come together under the wonderful eye of my designer friend, Susie Atkinson.  She has done an amazing job, again linking the ‘old and the new’ to create a room that will sit at the heart of the Estate and deliver a really unique experience to our visitors.

tasting room

We held our end of year party there last week, which was brilliant.  The vineyard boys had us in hysterics as they donned facemasks of the Great British Bake Off judges to judge all the entries of the Great Rathfinny Bake Off.


Everyone got a prize, though I ‘woz robbed!’ as the ultimate prize went to Nikki, despite my showstopper. photo 2

Not that I’m bitter and twisted!  (I did think that in revenge I would put in the photo of her winning the wooden spoon that Cam made, but even I couldn’t do that to her.)

Finally, the notes arrived for the Level 2 WSET wine course that Georgia and I are going on in the New Year.  Being a swot (Georgia, be worried!) I opened the pack with interest.  I’d like to say that I started with ‘The Wise Drinker’s Guide – Alcohol, Health and Responsible Drinking – first, because it was obviously the most important part, but that would be a lie.  It was the only booklet small enough to hold in the bath in one hand while balancing the much needed large glass of wine in the other!!

PS Here’s a quote about Champagne that will work whatever the result this afternoon.

“In success you deserve it and in defeat, you need it.”  Winston Churchill

Sarah Driver

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Cultivating hair rather than vines, Movember

While the Great Rathfinny Bake-Off is drawing to a close, Movember is just getting underway with the boys at Rathfinny.

Movember (the month formerly known as November) is a moustache growing charity event held during November each year that raises funds and awareness for prostate and testicular cancer, and mental health.

At the start of Movember guys register with a clean shaven face. The Movember participants, known as Mo Bros, have the remainder of the month to grow and groom their Mo, raising money along the way to benefit men’s health.

The Team at Rathfinny have (mostly) taken up the challenge and have begun cultivating their faces for charity- mainly because they are unable to do anything else from all the cake they’ve been eating. We’ve even managed to get Jonathan to shave his beard, which he has had for 11 years.


Before……                        and after.

The whole idea behind Movember is that we get people talking about men’s health by the growing of moustaches and the community to support them by creating an innovative, fun and engaging campaign that results in:

•   Funds for men’s health programme investment

•   Conversations about men’s health that lead to:

–  Greater awareness and understanding of the health risks men face

–  Men taking action to remain well

–  When men are sick they know what to do and take action

So get behind the guys and support the Rathfinny Mo’s, and help us change the face of men’s health. All of those who have organised themselves to register are on the Rathfinny Team page ( http://moteam.co/rathfinny-mo-s) and there are individual links from there. So whether you want to donate a little or a lot, it all helps. And if you’d just prefer to have a laugh at the Mo’s, the pictures will be updated regularly.IMG_6734-2

At the end of the first week, some of the mo’s.

Briefly, in news from the vineyard, the guys have finally finished putting all the posts in for this year, and they’ve even self-proclaimed a world record posts per day of 768. The vines are in the stages of shutting down ready for winter, most of the leaves have been turned autumnal by the St Jude’s day storm, but otherwise everything weathered the storm well.IMG_6298

The last few posts going in.

Cameron Roucher – Vineyard manager

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