Rathfinny Wine Estate

Classical Music at Rathfinny – London Concord Ensemble

I am so excited about our latest venture at Rathfinny. I have always seen a real link between wine and the arts and am therefore delighted to announce that the London ‘supergroup,’ London Conchord Ensemble, http://www.conchord.co.uk have agreed to become our resident chamber ensemble.

For their debut here, we are presenting an exciting Gala evening of sparkling wine and music, in our brand new Winery set in the heart of the vineyard, the full details of which you’ll find here  – http://www.rathfinnyestate.com/events/

Winery and Vineyard

I have worked closely with world famous oboist, Emily Pailthorpe, to put this all together. We went to see her great friends, David and Mary Bowerman, who have established one of Britain’s most prestigious chamber music venues and recording hall, Champs Hill. Mary was a wealth of advice and knowledge and kindly treated us to lunch. We were invited to sit in on part of an afternoon recording session, surrounded by exquisite art, and it brought home to me how magical live classical music can be. Mark, Emily and I completed our concert hall tour by visiting Douglas and Miranda Patterson who put on concerts at Cranbourne Farm and they too, were so helpful. Both visits opened our eyes to what was possible at Rathfinny.

The thought of being able to host world-class music in our Winery was tantalising but we still didn’t know if the acoustics would work. So it was with some nervousness that we stood back and waited as Emily unpacked her oboe, stood in front of the picture window overlooking the vines and then began to play. I can only describe the effect of her music floating to the high winery roof as spine tingling. We are in for a real treat when she plays here as part of the London Concord Ensemble. There was a collective “Hurrah!” to the Winery’s beautiful acoustics!

Looking ahead, the plan is for Conchord to present a weekend festival of chamber music every June. Ideas are already afoot for celebrating famous local composers, wine themed programmes, a collaboration to commemorate the ties between Bloomsbury and music, educational workshops for the young and also guest performances by some of classical music’s most dynamic stars. Watch this space for a full programme soon.

In the meantime, we really look forward to seeing you at our first major event – come and be part of it and enjoy a a feast of chamber music whilst you sup a class of English sparkling wine, standing on the balcony of our brand new Winery, on the 11th June.

Sarah Driver

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Huge progress at Rathfinny

So I have to admit, I’ve been away on holiday sailing in the Caribbean. Many of you will be aware that last year I fulfilled a lifelong ambition and sailed across the Atlantic. As our boat was in the Caribbean it seemed foolish not go and explore the islands, so over the last few weeks we explored the islands of Antigua, St.Kitts, Nevis and Barbuda. We returned on Monday and drove through Sussex under bright blue skies to see what had happened at the Rathfinny Wine Estate.

Planting above the Flint Barns

Whilst away, Cameron oversaw the planting of a further 70,000 vines to the west of the Flint Barns. They look fantastic and the warm spring weather has led to an early bud-burst, as the vines break into life for the year.

Bud Burst 2014

The temporary windbreaks have already proved their worth. The trees in the shelter belts are thriving (see the picture above), and you can see a real difference in the vines, especially those closest to the windbreaks.

As you may have read in a recent blog by Richard James we are now working with the universities of Lincoln (NZ) and Sussex to develop the right biodiversity within the vineyard to help reduce disease risk and increase beneficial insects. Richard is also overseeing the building of the new entrance which has really moved on and is nearly at the road. We will all be pleased when we no longer have to deal with a 1:3 gradient on a blind corner!

Work on the Flint Barns has been very impressive – our contractor, Cardy’s, was held up by the poor weather earlier this year, but they are now working flat out to try and complete the building in time to the accommodate seasonal workers needed for our expected harvest this year.

Happy Easter to all – enjoy the spring weather and don’t grumble about the rain, we need that as well!

Mark Driver

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Doesn’t time fly?

So, this is a (personal) milestone in blogging for me.  I have now been an employee here at Rathfinny Wine Estate for 12 months.  So what have I done in this time?  (Faint cry from the cheap seats of “not a lot”)

It’s been a whirl wind time of non-stop work where I have been able to utilise my skills and also learn new ones a plenty.  I won’t bore you with the details of my day to day routine, but while I have your undivided attention, I would like to propose that you watch this space for future research from me in the vineyard.  Because, while Cameron, Jamie and Jonathan were shaking hands with Royalty, I was meeting ecological ‘royalty’ in the form of Professor Steve Wratten from New Zealand.  It is early days yet, but in conjunction with Steve and hopefully Professor Dave Goulson* from Sussex University, I’m assessing the best way to enhance native biological gain in our vineyard to improve invertebrates (little critters) which will benefit our vines.  Watch this space and follow me on twitter (@rathfinnyrich) for regular updates.

For those followers of this blog, you may remember a post about the birth of our triplets entitled “Rollercoaster Ride”.  Well, I’m not sure what ticket we purchased but it’s now six months on and the ride shows no sign of stopping or indeed slowing down.  The question my Rock* and I get asked is “what’s it like and how do you do it”.  Firstly, we are not alone.  There are others out there who have triplets and even more!


The one word that sums it up is relentless.  Relentless feeding, relentless nappy changing and relentless washing to put away!  The numbers game – 560 nappies a month, 900 wipes every 2 weeks, 65kgs of formula(!) and 2016hrs of feeding (12hrs per day – do the math?).

However, the most important and crucial number of all.  We now have 4 beautiful and healthy children.

They are all sitting up, rolling around, giggling, smiling, defecating, laughing and squawking.  Often in the morning before I leave for work, I would put my money on the fact that we had produced three pterodactyls from all the noise emanating from their room.

The lack of sleep has been painful.  The continuous rounds of feeding have been endless.  The Rock has stood her ground and not waivered, purely because, just when you are at your lowest, covered in baby slime, surrounded by washing, still in your pj’s and a six year old that wants to play hula hoop with you – one of the triplets will smile or giggle.  Priceless.


My personal bug bear – if you’re reading this and you’re local, and you see me and my Rock with the tribe, please come over and chat and ask all the questions you wish.  It gets rather off putting when people just point and assume because we have triplets we miraculously became deaf at the same time – “oooo, that man has three babies, do you think they are all his……or…….wow, three babies I couldn’t do that, how could you?….”

So, come September I’ll be able to provide you all with a 12mth tribe update.  And hopefully by then I will have put that final basket of washing away and conquered the hula hoop.


(If washing is not put away, then more of the tribe will end up wearing the Rock’s knickers!)

Must go now and count critters between the vines…..

Ed – *Dave Goulson – author of incredible book entitled “Sting in the Tale”.

*the Rock – aka my fantastic and beautiful wife and mother to 4 wonderful children



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Not your usual day

I often say how varied the work in a vineyard can be, however this week I had a day that was quite unlike any other.

The day started like an ordinary day, heading down to the barn, to make sure the guys knew what they are doing for the day. Most of the team were off at a Biodiversity class learning about how we can benefit the vineyard through the use of host plants. So the remaining crew were left to do a bit of trellis repair work, as it was quite a pleasant morning not too cold with a bit of sun breaking through the clouds.

I left them to it as Jamie, Jonathan and I were representing Rathfinny at the opening of the UK Wine Research Centre at Plumpton College, and in particular the Rathfinny Research Winery. Not exactly my usual attire but I needed to get into my suit. Just as I was about to change I get a phone call….um the tractor’s PTO (power take off unit) won’t engage. A quick dash back to the barns to see what the problem was, pull half the dash off the tractor and after a lot of cursing the Italians that made the tractor, eventually the PTO was back up and running. It’s amazing that such a crucial piece of a tractor is held together with the tiniest split pin, smaller and less robust than my daughter’s hairpins! So crisis averted.

This time I got my suit on without interruptions.

The Plumpton Wine Research facility was opened by the Duchess Of Cornwall, quite fitting really as she grew up in the area and is the Patron of both Plumpton College and The UK Vineyards Association. We all were introduced to her, which was a bit nerve racking as there is a host of things to remember; what you should and shouldn’t say, and should and shouldn’t do. Luckily Jonathan and I weren’t deported for breaching Royal protocol, and I think Jamie still hasn’t washed his hand yet!


So thanks to donors such as Mark and Sarah, the UK now has a top research facility, which the UK wine industry needs. This will help the industry grow as every new and exciting industry needs a strong research institution behind it. Plumpton College is that centre of excellence in the cool climate wine region of England.

So after spending the best part of a day with the high flyers of the English Wine industry and HRH, the tail end of the day was spent trying to communicate to a Romanian truck driver who had no, and I mean no English whatsoever. He had to do a half hour detour (to avoid going through Alfriston) to get to where he needed to be, to unload our vines for this years planting. So I led him on the detour, then I was unloading vines on the forklift – in the snow/sleet and hail.

Yes, that’s right, it seems that every time we decide to plant vines the weather turns. We are planting another 20 ha of vines in a couple of weeks time. Everything is prepared and ready to go. Vines are now on site, posts, wire, and everything else we need for the next stage of the vineyard is here.


The existing vineyard has just started to show signs of life with the first buds starting to move, we should have budburst properly in a couple of weeks time, so here’s hoping for some nice weather.

So that sums up a not so typical day in the vineyard.

Cameron Roucher – Vineyard Manager

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