Rathfinny Wine Estate


A few days ago I was admiring a very nice glass that just got filled with sparkling wine. There were lots of steady trains of bubbles, the bubbles were quite fine (small), and they created a very pretty ring that lingered all around the surface of the liquid, in contact with the wall of the glass. In fact, it was a very good case study.

Whatever the method is of getting bubbles in wine, this is the simple principle of effervescence: carbon dioxide, or CO2, is dissolved (trapped) in the liquid. In sparkling wines, the liquid is “over saturated” in/with CO2, creating pressure as the bottle is sealed. The pressure inside a bottle of sparkling can reach 8 bars. The lower the temperature of the liquid, the more soluble the CO2 is. This is one reason why, in addition to make it more pleasant to taste, one might want to keep sparkling wine at cold temperature prior to drinking, so the CO2 does not escape too fast, causing the wine to become “flat” within minutes.

Train de bulles

The life cycle of a bubble is as follows: nucleation (birth), ascension and growth, burst (death). Bubbles appear on an immersed particle in the glass, usually dust or fibre residues (from a drying towel), or on a rough surface, like a scratch. Then they rise to the surface of the wine, loading themselves on the way up with more CO2. That’s why bubbles increase in size in their ascent. The composition of the wine affects the bubbles as well, and how the mousse, or foam, on top of the surface behaves. For example, tensio-active molecules, such as proteins, stabilise the gas/liquid interface of the bubbles.

As they eventually burst, they project minuscule droplets that disperse the aromas of the wine. It is important that the wine is poured properly, gently and with the glass inclined to avoid excessive CO2 loss. The glass itself is also very important. Sometimes we hear people complain that a sparkling wine is not fizzy enough, when it’s only a problem with the glass. As a reminder, glasses should be washed with hot water, using as little detergent (if any at all) as possible, thoroughly rinsed with very hot water and left head down to dry. It is likely one will use a towel to get rid of watermarks, and that’s fine. As for the shape of the glass, I recommend quite tall, and not too open on top, so aromas can concentrate and not be dispersed as soon as bubbles burst. Martini-style glasses to be avoided at all costs!

After all this attention, you’ll be able to get more out of the wine, and you’ll enjoy it even more.

Jonathan Médard – Winemaker

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Oh so close !!


From derelict barn…

On Monday 4th August I’m due to receive the keys from the construction company to our Flint Barn.  It’s such an exciting time for us all here at Rathfinny. Firstly let me introduce myself, I’m Adrian and I’m the new manager of the Flint Barn, I’ve been in the hospitality trade all of my working career, lastly with the charity accommodation provider YHA whom I worked with for nearly 24 years. I started work on the Rathfinny Estate in mid-June and I’m so excited about my new job and my role in developing the barn business and what we are going to offer to all the lucky people who stay with us on the Estate.  Watch this ‘blog space’ for regular updates and news about the Flint Barn.


During construction…

The building is looking so beautiful both inside & out and we will soon welcome our first group of customers at the end of August. In the future we will be using the barn for the accommodation of our seasonal pickers and pruners, out of those times we will be welcoming school groups, local & special interest groups and possibly families during certain school holidays. The building has been restored to a very high standard, it will truly be a home away from home for all our guests staying. The Flint Barn is built over 3 floors with accommodation on all levels, there are 10 rooms, which are all ensuite, with a total of 48 beds. The ground floor is the location of the stunning dining room, very comfortable and warm lounge and the Snug Room. There is a fantastic courtyard and this will incorporate a small café where, in the future, walkers of our Rathfinny Trail will be able to pop in and eat light lunches and ‘tipsy’ cream teas.

Exciting times ahead, I’ll be back here soon with an update on the first visit and also with some new pictures of the finished interior. In the meantime if you want further information or have any questions then do drop me an email on adrianl@rathfinnyestate.com

005This morning…

Adrian Lamb, Flint Barn Manager

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Mid-Summer Ramblings

Just like a Marmalade fly my thoughts are scattered and flit about for this edition of the blog. It was with some relief that I could announce to the team the other week that our newly constructed access road was drivable. We now have a sinuous driveway which more importantly provides safe access to and from the Estate for authorised vehicles.

Then like the more common ‘house’ fly my relief was swatted as I became entangled between two very well known tele-communication companies. What I was requesting for the Estate appeared to be simple, but as these companies ironically had communication issues this may not be a smooth ride!  Updates to follow.

On a far more positive note the Estate Tours have commenced and feedback has been good as well as constructive. Apart from gaining access to our state of the art winery and consuming chefs locally sourced delights, the visitors have been greeted by a riot of floristic colour straight from the outset. The first wheat field they see is bordered by some of our wild bird seed mix. This is awash with poppies, sainfoin, clover, vetches and speedwells to name but a few. Thus conversely not only can you see the colours but you can hear the field. It’s humming with the sound of summer.


Our wildbird seed mix above is providing a smorgasbord for insects.

The weather has been kind to us at the moment, and the arable element of the Estate will soon be harvested. Alas, kindness is not a word being used by our wine making counterparts in California. Here, when vines usually require about 700mm of rainfall per annum, they are suffering drought conditions. Time to look to Australia for advice perhaps?

But back to our arable – with harvest approaching over another golden sunset, we have planned our next cropping to ensure we can comply with new agricultural regulations. However, this planning is being thwarted. Much of our Estate is under various “options” to benefit wildlife and enhance the landscape. But we still await government clarity on the details of the new scheme. I will refrain from making any comments on the juxtaposition of a minister showing clarity.  Again, updates to come and please follow me on Twitter for daily musings (@rathfinnyrich).


This bumblebee is rather laden with pollen as it goes in again to a poppy.

All this Estate planning and forward thinking requires meetings, and meetings must contain caffeine.  (Jamie our COO would, I’m sure, concur.) Which brings this particular rambling to the subject of coffee. I would personally describe myself as a consumer of good coffee (my wife calls me a coffee snob) From the Estate I occasionally provide a substitute role for the Gun Room, our cellar door in Alfriston. To add to the other delights already in the Gun Room we now serve coffee and teas. To ensure I can provide adequate support to the team they trained me to make coffee.

How hard could it be? Hot water, decent coffee and ‘in date’ milk. Surely that’s it? After the first hour – how wrong could I be??

Choose the blend, type of coffee, type of grind, mocha, chai, flat white, speed of pour and don’t even get me started on the complexities of making frothy milk!!

Thank goodness the A-team in the Gun Room are competent baristas to serve visitors to the shop and Heritage Centre. For the time being I’ll avoid the composition and concentrate on the consumption!

(Addendum – night time cycle around Estate last evening provided excellent opportunity to hear and see two quail.  A wonderful farmland bird with a very distinctive call – very happy cyclist!)

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Working at Rathfinny Wine Estate

It’s been a sad week at Rathfinny as we have been saying goodbye to two people who are leaving us:

Liz O’Neil, whose been ‘run ragged’ by Rathfinny, ran the Tudor House restaurant in Alfriston many years ago and her family still live in the village. She joined Rathfinny in 2010 when we first bought the land as my eyes and ears on the ground and became my PA. She was due to take over the management of the Flint Barns but her circumstances have changed and she is taking on an increased responsibility for looking after her father, so heading off to pastures new. We are hugely grateful for all she has done at Rathfinny over the past 4 years and we wish her every success with her new plans.

Also, Nikki Roucher (Cameron’s partner) will be stepping down as the Manager of the Gun Room.  She has done a brilliant job at establishing the Gun Room as an iconic shop and visitor’s centre in Alfriston and has worked hard to help source all the wine related products. We shall miss her but fully support her decision to spend more time with her young family. She will, of course, continue to have a presence in all our lives as part of the Rathfinny family.

We have started the process of finding a replacement for Nikki and if you’re interested then please see the advert on our website: http://rathfinnyestate.com/work

We have also recently welcomed two new members to the Rathfinny team:

Adrian Lamb – after working for the YHA for nearly twenty years has joined us to manage the Flint Barns, which will be used to house our seasonal workers and will provide accommodation for special interest groups. He brings a wealth of knowledge and experience with him.

And joining the vineyard team we have ‘Geordie’ Dave Porter (we now have two Davids in the vineyard!) who after working in the Margaret River and Hawkes Bay in New Zealand for several years, has come back to England to get involved in this new exciting industry, did he miss the warm beer? Also, Mark Lavender, an ex-chef for Eastbourne has joined the vineyard crew.

photo 2

So if you are interested in joining the Rathfinny Wine Estate and in particular if you have relevant retail management experience and would like to manage our shop in Alfriston please get in touch.

Mark Driver

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Our first award!

It’s been another lovely week at Rathfinny with the sun shining high in the sky. We are thrilled to have been awarded our first award, the Sussex Heritage Award – design for the future, respect for the past – for our Gun Room. Congratulations are especially due to Martin Swatton and Anthony Sherwin who worked collaboratively to create the fine building we now have on the Tye. Do come along as see what we have to offer in the shop, where we’re now doing delicious take away coffees, and what is on show upstairs in the Heritage Centre.


On another note, (literally!) Emily and I have been planning our programme for next year’s concerts with London Conchord Ensemble. Make a note in your diaries now of the date – June 12th – 14th 2015 – as tickets will go fast. Every session will be completely different from the opening night on the Friday through to the Gala evening on the Saturday, interspersed with a morning coffee concert, an educational session, a piano recital and much, much more. Watch this space!


Talking of events you can now book our Estate Tours online. Here’s an extract from a satisfied customer who went on one of our Tea Tours,


            “thank you for the brilliant time we had at Rathfinny’s last Saturday. The whole experience was uplifting, informative and motivational. We enjoyed the first class tea and thank you for sharing Mr and Mrs Drivers awe inspiring vision/reality with us.”


Thank you for those kind words.


Finally, I was given a card the other day with the words that I have seen before, but which always make me smile! I shall have to start working on my quote for our Sussex Sparkling!


“I drink champagne when I’m happy and when I’m sad. Sometimes I drink it when I’m alone. When I have company I consider it obligatory. I trifle with if if I’m not hungry and drink it when I am. Otherwise I never touch it – unless I’m thirsty.” Lily Bollinger


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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: