Since my last blog it has been a hugely eventful time for Rathfinny Wine Estate. Mark has already described the opening of the Winery by Dr Vincent Cable and I don’t think that could have gone any better. Mark really pulled in some favours to ensure the sun shone and the wind subsided so all our guests could utilise the veranda and marvel at the expanse of vines!
Soil all removed and ready for stone
Those bubbles were swiftly put to one side as I was soon requested to meet with our contractors constructing our new access road. Geological percolation and compaction tests aren’t new to me, but the peculiarities of C30 or C35 concrete, ACO drains and bonded expansion joints have been a wonderful learning curve.
Stepping back a bit, I think it is important to state that this new road was put forward for planning permission due to the unsafe nature of our current track. Not merely the steepness of the current track but more importantly, how it meets the main B-road between Seaford and Alfriston. Working in close partnership with the South Downs National Park Authority, who are our planning authority, we were able to design a scheme which suited our needs and fitted into the undulating and sinuous landscape.
Trees had to be protected, archaeologists were required to excavate the entire area, a new landscaping scheme was approved, concrete samples assessed and health and safety protocols were duly adhered to. And only then, could Woollards commence the actual construction.
So the Romans were here! A small section of pot but no gold coins
The concreting has gathered a pace and should be finished in the next week or so (weather dependent) and then we can start with the sympathetic landscaping. This will entail some ‘gapping up’ of the current wooded area with some native saplings and then some larger native specimen trees to semi line the road. These trees will not form a full avenue as the main attraction as you enter the new road will be the vines. At the moment the field is sown with mustard, which is our break crop and natural compost provider, but early next year the vines will be planted.
A rare species on the Downs – JCB doublediggerus
Concrete – nice.
This week I dispensed with my steel toe caps to take on the role of ‘wing man’ with Georgia, as we hosted our first delegate day. An eclectic international mix of delegates had a tour and tasting on their first day and then returned the following day for a full agenda of board meetings. They did manage to stop proceedings for some fresh fruit mid-morning and chef’s delicious locally sourced lunch menu and even a wee cheeky cake in the afternoon. I may be biased, but what a wonderful location to hold a board meeting or seminar.
It was bright sunny day at Rathfinny on Friday 14th May when we welcomed the Rt.Hon.Dr Vincent Cable MP to officially open our Winery.
Dr Cable had stopped half-way up our track to give one of our neighbours a lift and he arrived, without pomp or ceremony, driving his own car, with John Webb in the passenger seat.
We had invited various friends and neighbours from the local area to join us to celebrate the opening of the Winery and the beginning of the next phase for Rathfinny. Now the Winery is ready, for what we hope will be a small harvest this year, and the Flint Barns and the new entrance way are nearing completion, we are moving on from what I consider was the investment stage onto the fun part – making wine.
So after teas and coffees and brief speeches Dr Cable revealed a plaque commemorating the occasion.
We then went on a tour of the Winery and we had a delicious lunch in the Winery Tasting Room.
It was a brilliant day and great way to celebrate all that has been achieved over the last three and half years at the Rathfinny Wine Estate.
Thank you guys
Mark and Sarah Driver
As Mark and I are planning a visit to Champagne soon to look at bottling, disgorging and labelling equipment, I am still wondering what method and which equipment I will be using to “cold stabilise” the wines, to ensure that tartrate crystals do not appear. Remember, crystals in a sparkling wine usually mean that as you open the bottle you’ll lose half of it because it’s going to gush.
Previously we looked at electro-dialysis, which, in my opinion, is a proven, efficient method (colleagues around the world agree). The machine is quite simple to use, and as long as it is properly set up, it should function without problem. One downfall to this method, however, is that it requires a lot of water.
Nowadays, more than ever, wineries are dedicated to act responsibly and in a sustainable way. Sustainability involves water conservation. England might not be suffering from an enduring drought as California has lately, but water is still a resource that needs to be used sensibly. Electro-dialysis also requires energy in order to run (i.e. electricity).
More and more, producers are now using CMC (Carboxymethyl Cellulose) for cold stabilisation. It is cellulose gum, which is a natural compound originally found in wood’s cellulose.
If you are conscientious about what you ingest, you might have seen the food additive E466 somewhere on a label. That’s CMC, used as a thickener and emulsifier—possibly in other ways too.
CMC, after bench trials in the lab, gets added to the wine and modifies the structure of the crystals, inhibiting further crystallisation. Thus far, it has proven to be quite efficient, provided that proper testing of both the composition of the wine and the amount of CMC to add was adequately performed.
CMC may well prove an effective, cost efficient, alternative to electro-dialysis for the cold stabilisation of sparkling wine—I am eager to test this as soon as we can.
Jonathan Médard – Winemaker