Rathfinny Wine Estate

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 ……..

pebble-dash:flint

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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