Rathfinny Wine Estate

It doesn’t rain it pours…

It doesn’t rain it pours…

With sunshine that is, what a pleasant and welcome change to finally see the sun for more than a couple of hours, and plenty of warmth to go with it.

Some of the more sheltered areas have visibly taken off, some vines have put on an inch or so of growth in the last week alone.

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We are still marking out and putting posts in, although held up by a few breakdowns they are going in great. All the young blocks are now cultivated to keep the weeds down while last year’s vines are trying to head towards flowering, while others that don’t have flowers are putting on reasonable shoot growth.IMG_0492

We also have made a start on picking up flints from the area around this year’s planting. Last year the guys managed to pick up 60 tonnes of flint which will go into the building of the flint barn. We should get at least that this year, even if we don’t get anywhere near that tonnage of fruit! It’s a long slow and dusty process at this time of year but at least it beats doing it when the ground is frozen.

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Read Cam's Article

More Progress

There was much excitement at Rathfinny this week as the first three fermentation tanks arrived from France.

Tank on the lorry

The rest of the tanks were inspected in France by Jonathan last week and are due for delivery on the 16th July.

tanks in France

I keep being told that the winery will be ready on the 16th August and fully tested and ready for operation by the end of August, but there still seems to be a lot to do. However, it was nice to see the first three of twenty-four tanks arrive this week and they are currently housed in our grain barns waiting to be set up in the winery in mid-July.

The floor of the fermentation hall has been prepared; drainage channels put in, the floor levelled and covered in epoxy non-slip coating. So we are ready to go. The offices and tasting room are taking shape as well, the ceilings are going in and the under-floor heating is in and the cladding is going up on the outside.

vine growth

Meanwhile the vineyard is looking very tidy. The vines are still a bit behind and we are still trying to tame the wind, which has been unusually strong again this year. However, we have a few inflorescence (flower clusters) on some of the vines and as we expect to have some better/hotter weather they should be flowering in the next two weeks. So I am still hopeful of getting a very small crop this year, enough to play with the new equipment in the winery. Ever the optimist…

Meanwhile the new vineyard is taking shape. The vineyard team have been working very hard putting in the trellising posts and recently we have had some students in trimming vines and putting clips on the stakes to hold them to the fruiting wires.

young vine growth

So lots of progress, including the work on the Gun Room which will serve as our tasting room on the Tye, in Alfriston that we hope to open in November this year.

Enjoy the warmer weather, we are….

Mark Driver

Read Mark's Article

Too exciting …..

Ok, so I don’t write anything for ages and here I am pushing in with a second blog in 2 weeks!

However, whilst Mark gets excited about tanks and cross flow filters and electro dialysis (yawn!), I got really excited this week about our winery tasting room, which is taking shape. It has been a difficult room in some ways to fit out as it is long and narrow, but with the tireless help of Susie Atkinson, who has fitted out several Soho House venues, and Martin Swatton, our designer, we are nearly there.

Here’s our passage to the tasting room

tasting room hall

And our samples

tasting room samples

And our tasting room!

tasting room

The plan is to use this room to host trade tasting as well as events and it will be available for hire for off-sites, conferences and entertaining.

Finally, I then got even more excited down at the Gun Room where they are making great progress.  Look at what we found under the pebble dash ……..

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Beautiful flint walls!  What was with the pebble dash??

flint wall

(If you’re worried about the benches – they’ve been temporarily removed to keep them safe whilst this work is undertaken.)

The Rathfinny Gun Room which incorporates Alfriston’s Heritage Centre will be open in November for early Christmas shopping – did I say Christmas!?  That will probably be the next time I write a blog knowing my track record!

Sarah Driver

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Visit to Champagne

It has been another busy week here at Rathfinny, starting with a visit to Champagne.

Mark and I had an amazing tour around Taittinger getting a serious case of cellar envy!  20 metres under their main site in Reims (pronounced Rance!) are Roman chalk cellars dating back to the third century, that they call ‘crayeres’.  They are incredible, dome shaped, rising like pyramids above you to small vents at ground level.

We saw rounded caves stacked with bottles, 72,000 to be exact, that take 2 men one week to fill.  With the help of wooden bars to line up the bottles exactly, they stack them 42 levels high – any higher and too much pressure is exerted on the lower bottles.

cellar taittinger

Then there was the range of bottles that made the standard 75cl bottle look positively tiny!

bottle sizes

I learnt their names – from smallest to largest – demie, bouteille, magnum (1.5 litres, 2 bottles), Jeroboam (3 litres, 4 bottles), mathusalem (6 litres, 8 bottles), salamanzar (9 litres, 12 bottles), balthazar (12 litres, 16 bottles) and finally nabuchodonosor (15 litres, 20 bottles).

I also learnt that Taittinger are one of the only Champagne houses to age their champagne in a jeroboam.  Many others decant from smaller bottles into a jeroboam after the secondary fermentation.  Taittinger only decant into bottles bigger than a jeroboam and we saw this process with a mathusalem.

transfer method

We met Pierre-Emmanuel Taittinger and his son, Clovis and took on board their words of wisdom on how to market our sparkling wine all over the world.  The main messages I have taken home with me are it is hard work and attention to detail is paramount.

Back at Rathfinny there’s the winery tasting room fit out to finalise, seasonal workers’ employment contracts to draft, overseeing the Gun Room building works, preparing the winery for the delivery of the tanks, meetings with our PR agency to finalise our plans for next year, details to sort out for the winery opening, decisions to be taken on our labelling …… They were right about one thing – it is hard work!

Sarah Driver

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Weather and Vines

It’s no secret that the weather over the past few months has been rubbish. Given that we’re now in the middle of meteorological spring, and it’s the beginning of June, when will it properly warm up? It’s of little comfort that its not just us suffering, reports from Champagne, the Loire, Germany and even as far south as Provence and Tuscany are stating below average temperatures with vine growth well behind where they should be.

Usually the meteorological spring comprises of 3 months, however March as most of us would rather forget was a winter month, and not just a normal winter month, it was a colder than average winter month that then decided it would extend into early April. So by default we should see a late, long and hot (ok maybe warm) summer as the jet stream moves into a more normal position, bringing with it more settled weather. June at least is looking slightly better with the daily minimums starting to pick up at the end of the first week.

So what does all this mean for the vineyard and vines? Leading up to budburst in vines, key factors that are needed are adequate soil moisture (we’ve had plenty of that) and sunshine with temperatures above 10°C (growth occurs when mean daily temperature exceeds 10°C).

Now that spring has finally decided to rear its head from the depths of winter, I can safely say that we have finally hit budburst properly on all varieties across both the existing and this year’s plantings in the last few weeks. Not just budburst either, we’re starting to see some decent growth, the Riesling and Pinot Meunier are again looking good in the warmer parts of the vineyard with the Pinot Noir not far behind. Our poor old Chardonnay, which is on the more exposed slopes, has actually started well and has surprisingly even growth.

What we now hope for is that settled weather we’ve been missing for the past year, pretty soon we’ll be seeing our vines flowers become more exposed just waiting for the sunshine. Meanwhile, we’ll be enjoying the new green growth, the warm spring days, and the growing intensity of the sun.  In these gentle spring days you can almost hear the vineyard growing.  We’re keeping our fingers crossed that this continues and slowly develops into the summer we’ve all been hoping for.  One thing that working in vineyards has taught me over the years is that no two years are the same, and even a slow start can eventually change into a wonderful year, and yes, there’s still plenty of posts to go in. Zmgd22przemmJvt9Q7aRsX6rA1M2noY0tzwGJ0mjkOg

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Tanks

I have just come back from a trip to the Pierre Guérin factory in Niort, France, where Rathfinny’s tanks are currently being fabricated. I met up with Gerard, our winery engineering consultant, to inspect and make sure that the tanks are built exactly to our specifications. It is amazing to see the different techniques and tools used to assemble cylindrical tanks from flat stainless steel sheets.

Sheets are first welded together, then cut to desired dimensions to become one tank. Welds are then completely polished, to the point where they become difficult to detect. You can see on the pictures before polishing.

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After polishing, they are then curved to size and welded along the seam to form a cylindrical shape, at this stage there is no top or bottom. Those are different pieces built separately, welded onto the cylindrical body form.

Tank tops and bottoms start as circles, from which a slice is taken out so that they can then be bent into a cone. Those cones are finally welded—yes, that is a lot of welding—to each end of the cylindrical tank.

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Wine tanks must be outfitted with various items:

  • an access door, to access inside the tank,
  • valves, to connect hoses to transfer juice or wine,
  • temperature probes, linked to a temperature control system.

Openings are cut through the stainless steel, either mechanically or by a plasma ray.
You can see above some the pre-cut of where the door will be assembled.

Jackets, through which a liquid coolant will run to regulate the temperature of the wine, are welded in a spiral shape, either manually for smaller tanks, or with a machine for larger tanks.

Legs are then attached to the bottom of the tank for stability.

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The inside and outside tank surfaces will be polished, producing a mirror finish on the inside, making it so smooth that virtually nothing will stick to it! It may sound inconsequential, but this makes cleaning the tank an easier task than it otherwise could be. It enhances hygiene, which is a critical point in winemaking since contamination of the wine can lead to spoilage.

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Lastly, external components are fitted, including the valves, level gauge, door mechanism and chimney.

Here, Gerard inspects the first completely finished Rathfinny tank. He approved, and so did I!

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We are expecting the delivery, installation and commissioning of our order of 24 tanks the first week of July, along with our Coquard press.

And we’ll be ready before harvest—well, that’s the goal at least!

Read Jonathan's Article

Let’s talk about the bubbles….

Last year Rathfinny became a member of the English Wine Producers, which is the marketing arm for the commercial wine producers in England.  The EWP works in a very collaborative way, recently promoting English wines at ProWein, the international wine trade fair in Dusseldorf, Germany and on Tuesday of this week they managed a very successful ‘pop-up’ wine tasting at the London International Wine Fair at the Excel centre in London. Yours truly was also at the LIWF talking about English sparkling wine under the rather ridiculous title “Is the bubble about to burst?”

I say it’s ridiculous because the only bubbles in English sparkling wine are in the bottle. The simple fact is that we don’t produce enough for there to be a bubble. Sure, various new producers are coming into production over the next few years, including Rathfinny, and production is going to grow, however, we will still be a very small wine producer on the international stage. We are being compared to New Zealand yet they produce over 200 million litres of wine compared to our 2 million!

So let me give you some facts. Sadly we don’t have the numbers for 2012 but given the dreadful summer, production was probably down by 30-50% on 2011. Total English wine production in 2011 was just over 3 million bottles, of which just over half was sparkling wine.

In theory today, based on historic yields, from the roughly 1,350 hectares planted in England and Wales, we could produce close to 6 million bottles and nearly 4 million of that is likely to be sparkling wine. So how big is the market for English sparkling wine?

The UK is one of the largest consumers of sparkling wine in the world, we drank  nearly 120 million bottles of the stuff last year and consumption is growing by 3% per annum. We are also the second largest consumer of Champagne in the world drinking 36 million bottles last year. Interestingly according to wine intelligence 14% of sparkling wine consumers say that they drink English fizz once a month. That would equate to 3.5 million bottles per annum. Which is great but we only produce 1.5-2 million bottles!

So what is the problem with us producing 7, 8 or even 10 million bottles of English sparkling wine? Can we find a market for it?

Well the main issue is price – English Fizz typically retails at between £20-25 per bottle, which is the price of the lower quality Champagne. So we need to continue to convince UK consumers that instead of buying poor quality Champagne, they should be buying more quality English Fizz, which is made in the same hand picked, hand crafted and bottle fermented method and much better value.

However, firstly we need to make it more available. Existing producers are all sold out. Whenever I ask in restaurants why they don’t have any English wine or fizz on the wine list, they say it is because they can’t get hold of it and it is the same story in our local off licence. Very few producers have the capacity to offer the quantities that some restaurant chains require. Lastly, we need to explore and expand the export market for our award winning sparkling wines.

So in conclusion, let’s stop talking about a bubble and talk about the bubbles. We have a fantastic product that will be consumed around the world so let’s shout about it.

Go English Fizz….

Read Mark's Article

St Vincent’s Day Tasting

I have to apologise for not having posted a blog for months.  (Mark is leaning over me and tells me I haven’t done one since August last year!!)  He must be desperate, as he has also told me that someone has requested that I write more as I made him laugh – thank you Seaford golfer!

I could give you lots of excuses but I’ll stick to two.

  1. I’ve been doing an MA – last submission is in so only my dissertation to do over the summer.
  2. I have been working on my dyslexia campaign, which culminated in the launch of a report, The Fish in the Tree, at the House of Lords last month. If you’re interested, check out our website http://driveryouthtrust.com/?page_id=63.

I may have not been writing blogs but I have been working hard at Rathfinny.  With the able help of Georgia and Nikki we have been sourcing items to sell in our new cellar door, the Gun Room in Alfriston.  We got our last bit of planning permission yesterday – hurrah – so we should be ready to open in the autumn. The whole team has been working on designing the interior of the barns – think ‘simple, stylish hostel.’  All going well, we should be open in February next year.  I have enlisted the help of a great friend, Susie Atkinson, (http://susieatkinson.com) who has worked on many of the Soho House projects, to help with designing the interior of the Winery tasting room.  It’s a challenging shaped room, being long and narrow, but what she has come up with is exquisite.  There will be no better place to sit with a glass of sparkling wine and look upon the vineyard.

Rathfinny Winery Tasting Room

Jamie Everett has been a godsend and I have delighted in sending him all my legal files, especially those dealing with trademarks.  He has received them in good humour and is ploughing his way through all the work with good grace.

Finally, I did want to share with you an evening of wine tasting Mark and I went to in March.  It was SEVA’s (South East Vineyard Association) St Vincent Day Tasting held at Bolney Vineyard, who laid on a lovely spread.  St Vincent of Saragossa, for those of you, like me, who have never heard of him, is the patron saint of winemakers and his ‘day’ is 22nd January.

All was going well, I had a nice glass of bubbly in one hand, a canapé in the other and then they announced that the moment had come, we were to taste a selection of wines.  I can do that, I thought.  Taste, that is.  However, they handed out a formal sheet of paper upon which there were 10 rows and columns headed with things like, ‘nose’, ‘mousse’, ‘taste’, ‘grape’ and ‘country’.  It soon became apparent from the hush in the room, the serious look that descended on everyone’s face (except mine!) that something momentous was afoot.

Suffice it to say, I had a jolly time on my own and thought I’d done quite well.  I had decided to concentrate on the ‘taste’ section.  The only thing is that no one else seemed to have written down anything like my comments.  They quickly looked bemused when I proudly suggested flavours of ‘bubblegum’, ‘tutti frutti’ and ‘camphorwood chests’ (which I was particularly proud to have come up with).  From my notes I have also written ‘crushed up cornflake and a chappati’ but can’t imagine what sort of wine tasted like that!  Anyway the good news is that none of the wines were English!  I very quickly learnt that the best approach was to look wise, nod a lot and purse my lips knowingly.

Right!  Done!  I’m thinking Mark won’t let me write another blog after this!!

Read Sarah's Article

Reserve Wines

We’re already well into the year, but still waiting for bud burst, and I can’t stop thinking about the infamous English weather. Last year was a stern reminder how all sorts of crops, including vines, can be dramatically impacted by a poor summer.

Budburst

To me, having spent my last 10+ harvests in California, it looks like we can expect a late bud burst. Apparently, this does not seem to be unusual for England. Which is good, bud burst appears to be about two weeks late so far!

Provided we get a nice summer, and the vines aren’t the only things that could use some sun and heat, a nice harvest could await.

You might ask: what if we don’t? Or, the dreaded question, what if there’s a repeat of last year’s season?

Well, either we’ll get very light volumes, or worse, nothing at all. If that happens, what options do English wine producers have?

This leads me to a vital question: what are English producers’ positions on reserve wines?

The incorporation of reserve wines into a producer’s portfolio strengthens their business plan: it helps both to maintain constant quality, for those who produce a non-vintage, and constant volumes, to cover for low yield harvests over the years.

While I am a strong proponent of reserve wines, one potential drawback is that it requires valuable storage space; winemakers need to be prepared to “sacrifice” tanks for this purpose. It’s part of our long-term winemaking vision at Rathfinny.

In essence, the debate is whether or not it’s more sensible to produce vintage wines every year, or to produce non-vintage by blending different wines.

Vintage (millésime) Champagne is produced only in growing years considered to be of great quality and, during those non-optimal years, wines are a blend of different vintages.

I can’t help but wonder, as the English wine industry continues to grow is this a trend that will dictate winemaking expectations of English producers?

Jonathan Médard – Winemaker at Rathfinny

PS: I had to share this picture of the grass roof on the winery….

Grass Roof

 

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Sussex Sparkling PDO

New Plantings at Rathfinny Vineyard
New Vine Planting at Rathfinny Vineyard

We recently had a group of journalists up to talk about the new plantings at Rathfinny and the inevitable question was raised, “what do you think about the name English sparkling wine?” and “do we need a new generic name for English fizz?”

This debate seems to ramble on and some producers have come up with their own solution. Ridgeview have adopted the name Merret, after Christopher Merret who documented how sparkling wine is made, well before Dom Perignon tried to stop bubbles from developing in the bottle. Coates and Seely have launched their fizz with the name Britagne, supposedly pronounced ‘Britannia’, but more likely to be pronounced ‘Brittany’ where they produce great cauliflowers! A wine blogger suggested ‘Albion’, whilst the Duchess of Cornwall proclaimed that English fizz should be called Champagne as it is made in the same traditional way and as good as, if not better than, Champagne. Good on you Camilla.

So what’s the problem with the name English Sparkling Wine? After all most fizz produced in England is labeled as such and it adequately describes what’s inside the bottle. Well the perceived problem is that it is a bit of a mouthful and doesn’t carry the same weight and kudos as Champagne, yet it is made in the same traditional method. However, neither do the generic terms Cava, Prosecco, Sekt or Cap Classic, used elsewhere to describe sparkling wine from Spain, Italy, Germany and South Africa respectively.

The point is that English sparkling wine has gained a great reputation in recent years, winning many awards in international competitions and therefore many people have been keen to come up with a generic term to match this reputation.

However, before we go launching into a generic term, perhaps we should look at what has happened elsewhere in the ‘New World’ of wine and can we learn from their mistakes? Mike Paul, who has done a lot of work through Wineskills to help market English wine, wrote a very good blog about this particular subject in January.  He highlighted how Australia has recently suffered by not segmenting its wine production, as have New Zealand, in a similar way to Germany in the 1980s. It is worth a read… http://mikeakpaul.com/2013/01/20/going-regional-why-the-new-world-should-bother-2/

So what is Rathfinny thinking of doing? Well, we believe that looking ahead the fizz we produce from the Rathfinny vineyard will be different from the fizz that is produced in other areas of England. It has a lot to do with what I like to call our environment but the French would call ‘terroir’. Our soils, climate and wine making techniques will make a different wine than those produced in Shropshire or the West Country; we need to be able to differentiate ourselves from other English producers in other areas of England. So we are keen to establish Sussex Sparkling as a PDO (Protected Designation of Origin).

After all Sussex is such a great name. It is quintessentially English, it makes me think of the rolling hills of the South Downs and yet so much more. The sunny south-coast, chalky cliffs of Beachy Head, summer sunshine, cream teas in lovely little villages like Alfriston, great beer and according to the Argus newspaper this week, the best sparkling wine in England.

So the aim is that in ten years time you walk into a restaurant in Beijing and the bartender asks :-

“Would you like a glass of Champagne or a perhaps a delicious glass of Sussex, I can recommend the Rathfinny.”

Mark Driver

Read Mark's Article

Year 2 planting all done!

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This was the second year of planting and much larger than last; in fact we put in half as many vines this time round. Over 8 days we managed to get all 85,000 vines planted (with a little help from our friends at Vinplant) but this year we weren’t planting in the lovely weather we had last year. Instead of temperatures in the mid 20’s and T-shirts, we were subjected to frosts in the mornings, snow on a couple of days, and temperatures struggling to get above 5 degrees, not to mention the layers of thermals, coats, and beanies.

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Despite the cold we had a magnificent run of planting and the vines look fantastic. A big thanks goes to Volker and the team at Vinplant without whom we wouldn’t have such lovely straight rows, also to the guys in the vineyard here at Rathfinny, early starts, long days and manhandling vines all day out in the cold isn’t the most fun but there wasn’t one grumble. And finally to Liz and Jamie, for keeping the team supplied with plenty of hot food, coke and chocolate, much needed moral boosters on those bitter days.

Now the real work starts, staking and tying up of the vines has begun, as well as the marking out for the posts. The first end posts have already started to go in. We’ve even had a “little” bit of rain to help settle the vines in. I am constantly reminded of last year when I suggested we needed some rain and it virtually didn’t stop for 6 months.  I won’t say a word this time around!

Cameron Roucher, Vineyard Manager

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Another busy week at the Rathfinny Wine Estate

You have to be an optimist to plant vines in England. After one of the wettest years on record, we had a long cold winter followed by the coldest March since 1962, and it is currently snowing!

My optimism is certainly being tested, but I read that the jet stream appears to be changing direction and heading north again, which should herald warmer, but perhaps wetter weather from the southwest next week. Let’s hope that this is the spring arriving, at last.

Ready for Planting 2013

So we initially thought about delaying the vine planting, but in the end we brought it forward by a couple of days and started on 31st March (last Sunday). Volker and his crew drove over from Germany in his Unimog with the planting machine on the back and arrived on Saturday evening ready for an early start on Sunday. Cameron and the vineyard team came in over Easter and off they went. So far they have managed to plant nearly 12,000 vines per day so we hope to be finished by Sunday 7th April.

Vines ready for planting

This year we are planting 85,000 vines – mainly Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Meunier, which will be the principle grapes used as the base wine for the Rathfinny Sparkling. However, we have also planted smaller quantities of Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc and Auxerrois, which may be used in the blend of our Fizz as they add different fruit characteristics.

Although it is very cold, it was dry and in fact perfect planting conditions, until, it snowed on Wednesday night! However, the team started again at 6am on Thursday and, as I write this blog, they are planting through an inch of snow.

Planting

As well as the vine planting, the roof of the Winery was completed this week. We held a ‘topping out’ ceremony, celebrating the fact that the building is now watertight and the grass roof is being laid.

Topping out

The turf (in the photo above) was only used for show. The real grass arrived in a roll of what looked like felt, pre-seeded with a special mix of South Downs grassland to mirror the grasses and wild flowers of the surrounding countryside. It is going to look spectacular and we have to thank Martin Swatton our designer who came up with whole concept. So despite my vertigo we all climbed up onto the roof and toasted the project with a glass or two of English Fizz.

We are also pressing ahead with the work on the Flint Barns, which are being converted into seasonal workers’ accommodation. We wrote about this recently on the blog and also in the Spring Newsletter which is now available on the website.

Scaffolding went up last week to protect the walls whilst the foundations are underpinned or should I say established, as they have no foundations to talk of. We hope to start the main building work in May.

Flint wall support

We have also laid a new track to the Flint Barns replacing the rutted track that existed. And whilst planting the vines we set out a small trial block of four different clones of Chardonnay to be used by Plumpton College students.

So yet another busy week at Rathfinny…

Read Mark's Article

Rain, rain, go away!

Can you believe that this time last year it was 23C and the environment agency imposed a hosepipe ban? Luckily we are delighted to say that we can now walk through the new winery building without being drenched!

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Progress has been spectacular lately: the entire roof is now officially on.

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As I write, the concrete slabs are being poured on the office and laboratory level, and on the tasting room level the slab is down already.

Casts are visible where the reinforced concrete will be poured around the openings to support the presses.

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So as of today, if you walk inside the winery, you can finally see the three different levels and really measure the working spaces available.

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We are still on track for completion by mid-August, and by then the tanks, one press, wiring, piping etc should all be in.

On a side note, we visited Italy last week to look at bottling equipment which was very informative, we learned (even) more about bottling lines and even had time to visit the Negro winery in Monteu Roero, and taste both still and sparkling Nebbiolo wines. If you travel in the Piedmont area, do go and meet the Negro family in the Roero hills, feel the warm Italian hospitality and taste some great wines.

Now I suppose we just have to keep praying for a better growing season than last year. I’m looking forward to experiencing that ‘English Summer’.

Jonathan Médard – Winemaker

Read Jonathan's Article

Work to start on our Seasonal Worker accommodation on Monday…

After over a year of consultation and discussions with the South Downs National Park planning authority and a year of discussions with Wealden District Council before that, late last year (2012) we finally got planning permission to redevelop the old Rathfinny Flint Barns into a 46 bed hostel for seasonal workers.

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Whilst Rathfinny has the most stunning location on the South Downs, with beautiful views down the Cuckmere valley, it is rather remote. Whilst the old hop and apple lands of Kent, and the market garden areas of West Sussex and Hampshire have a a willing band of seasonal workers to call on to help out during harvest and winter pruning, we are nearly an hour and a half from these pools of labour. So we realised very early on that we would need to build accomodation to house seasonal workers at Rathfinny, especially as there is very little reasonably priced accomodation near by.

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The Flint Barns, whose roof was blown off by the storm of 1987, seemed like the natural solution to our problem and thankfully the SDNP planning authority agreed. We are starting work on Monday to underpin the walls, which have NO foundations, and then in May we hope the main building work will start, creating what will be a fantastic new facility not just for us but within the South Downs.

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The new building will have a total of twelve bedrooms, many with bunks, with on-suite shower rooms to accomodate 46 people. In the new extension to the West we are adding a large dining area, cloakrooms, boot rooms, laundry and drying rooms. On the ground floor of the old Barn there will be a large recreational area with a wood burning stove for the winter months, because we will need to house seasonal workers to help us prune the vines during January and February, as well during the harvest in September and October.

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When the Flint Barns are notbeing used by Rathfinny staff we will be letting them out to school groups who want to study the geography and history of the local area, as well as to walking and and other special interest groups.

We are also establishing a new trail which will open up the lower part of Cradle Valley and give access to the Flint Barns by foot. We hope to be able to offer walkers cream teas and refreshments and eventually a glass of Rathfinny Fizz.

So here is the deal if you want seasonal work at Rathfinny Wine Estate:

  • We will need a minimum of 46 people per day from 2014 onwards to help us at harvest time – late September and October.
  • We will house you and feed you.
  • We will even pay you!!
  • We will need you to commit to a minimum of a week.
  • We will ask you to work hard and pick tonnes of grapes.
  • But you will have a lot of fun whilst doing it…

So if you know any fit, strong students who want to earn some money before going on a gap year, or you just want to get away from the rat race for a week and go on a paid working holiday, then think about Rathfinny.

Now Cameron (our Vineyard Manager) doesn’t beleive that we can find fifty people a day who will be willing to work hard (and it is hard work picking grapes) however, I’m more optimistic and think we British will prove him wrong!

So pass it on, tell your friends and family that in 2014 there will be work at Rathfinny and you will have a lot of fun whilst doing it!! Guaranteed….

Read Mark's Article