Pruning is all about balance, the delicate balance between fruit load and shoot growth.
In basic terms, we’re training and directing the growth of the vine for the coming season. Pruning allows us to manipulate the potential quantity, and quality of fruit produced. Following a season like the one we’ve just had, this is all the more important.
2018 was quite a year for UK vineyards, often touted as the ‘biggest and best’ yet. In France, they’d call it a Millésime, a proper ‘Vintage’. This is great but the ongoing effects of a season like we’ve just had can have far-reaching consequences.
We asked Chris Bailey, our Tasting Room Head Chef, his ingredient of the month in January…
Why Southdown Lamb? We use the best quality produce we can source from as close to the Estate as possible. This lamb has great flavour and it’s really good to be able to use lamb which is bred on the same ridge of land that Rathfinny sits on, on the South Downs.
Where do you source it from?Saddlescomb Farm
Best cooking tip? Rest the lamb well after cooking before carving.
Favourite dish you use it in? Roast Saddlescomb lamb loin, sweetbreads, barley, turnip and braised lettuce.
Launching a brand is how I imagine parenthood to be, you lay all the groundwork for the birth, but nothing can prepare you for the reality once it’s been born.
As any new parent would be, at Rathfinny we’re proud of our offspring and count ourselves super lucky with how the first five post-launch months have gone. We’ve brought into the world two beautiful sparkling wines that have been well received and have some fantastic trade partners to share them with.
Initially, we had an irrational fear that the expectation Rathfinny had generated over the years up until the launch might be tricky to live up to, but luckily, we had top journalists and trade figures saying, “wow, thank goodness I like it, it would have been awkward if not!”. Glowing write-ups abounded, which was also the case overseas.
Sometimes a year will come along that is quite unlike any other. 2018 is one of those years.
Following last year’s fine weather at flowering the potential crop this year was always going to be good in terms of yield, little did we know we would have one of the warmest summers on record. What this meant for us, and the UK wine industry in general, is that we had a large crop that was able to ripen to ideal levels for our Sussex Sparkling wines. When I say a large crop this is relative, the UK has consistently low yields compared to other grape growing regions, which is due to weather events; late spring frost, poor flowering weather, and (generally) cool summers.
We started harvesting in glorious sunshine on Monday and what a harvest we have this year.
The vineyard really benefited from the warm dry weather we experienced in May, June, and July. Flowering was really great and the fruit set is superb. As we had so little rain in those early summer months we had very low disease pressure so the fruit is very clean, ripe and has fantastic flavours.
Within the grounds of a former tea plantation, concealed in a corner of the Ngong Ping plateau, in sight of the Big Buddha, Sarah Driver is retracing her childhood. In the 1960s, she and her brothers, Robert and Ian, were the only European children living on Hong Kong’s Lantau Island.
We’ve had a lovely two week ‘pop-up’ at the incredible Ham Yard Hotel in Soho, part of the Firmdale Hotels group and what a treat it was for all involved. Exclusive tickets to their gorgeous roof top garden saw a real mix of people coming to taste what Rathfinny had to offer. There was our Blanc de Blancs and Rosé Sussex Sparkling and Cradle Valley wine alongside cocktails, developed by Eoin Kenny, Firmdale’s Group Mixologist, using our
Seven Sisters Gin with an emphasis on using English and Sussex ingredients.
As part of my job I spend a lot of time collecting, analysing and interpreting data from the vineyard with the aim of building a clear representation of the Estate each season and comparatively, year on year. I spoke briefly in my previous blog about the future of data driven decision making especially on a site as big as ours, so after visiting Fruit Focus at NIAB EMR where this was discussed, I thought some more about the importance of technology and how we can use it to improve our practices. Part of this encompasses the evolution of data analytics in the vineyard. Mainly, machine learning, satellite image processing and wireless sensor networks. Together these tools can help make strategic decisions which work to improve efficiency and ultimately, the consumer experience.
As the hot weather continues and the sun shines brightly over the Estate, it’s sometimes hard to remember we are in England. I have to keep reminding myself to appreciate the long, summer days as it’s so easy to get used to them and when the weather does eventually break, we will wonder how we could have ever complained of being hot.