rath logo

Keep a look out for the branding above as you are going to see a whole lot more of it in the not so distant future for sure!.

Let me explain more.

Some time ago now I got chatting to Richard James. (@RathfinnyRich – twitter handle, you should follow him, he has a great sense of humour & even posts wine occasionally, ha ha, actually with very interesting wine posts!) We started chatting about the vineyard (Rathfinny) where he works and lives in East Sussex on the south coast of England.

It sounded fascinating that although the vineyard was purchased in 2010 they were yet to launch their sparkling wines. When you are starting to produce sparkling wines in the UK you definitely have to be in it for the long haul…… however ALL that changed last week.

Rathfinny spectacularly launched their sparkling wines at the extremely prestigious setting of Somerset House in London.

Before I tell you about the day though let me give you some history behind the Rathfinny Estate and story so far.


Rathfinny Estate was founded in 2010 by husband and wife, Mark and Sarah Driver. They bought a working arable farm of some 600 acres (242Hectares) which in 2012 was planted initially with 50 acres of the three great sparkling wine grapes of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir & Pinot Meunier. There are now 185 acres of vines planted and another 215 acres will planted before 2021 making this England’s largest vineyard. There is also a small quantity of Pinot Blanc and Pinot Gris planted on the estate.

Although I’ve yet to visit the vineyard, (I will be visiting  later this year) what is strikingly clear from the Rathfinny website, literature and launch event is that Mark & Sarah are extremely serious about their wine business. Mark quit the rat race of being a hedge fund manager (bloody hard work!) in the city of London managing a $6 Billion fund and found himself a two year viticulture course which was the start of realising his dream of owning a wine estate.

The Rathfinny Estate vineyard is located within the South Downs national park. Three miles from the sea, it has chalk soil and its in south facing slopes making ideal conditions for producing some world class sparkling wines.

30108945074_b0ae962aa2_o (1)

The brand new ÂŁ5.5m purpose built winery was nominated for a RIBA award (Royal Institute of British Architects).

What is very impressive is that from day one the winery has been built to be self-sufficient both for water and energy. The winery is currently the largest in the UK.

Image: Stephen Blowers
Image: Martin Swatton
Image: Stephen Blowers

There has been enormous investment in this venture, starting with the initial investment in the property, planting the vineyards and now with 36 full time staff.

It doesn’t stop there either, down the road in the village of Alfriston you will find the Gun Room so called because its said to be once the gun store Duke of Wellington. This  is currently Rathfinny’s Cellar Door, where you can taste wine and also buy other gifts and wine-related products, championing local goods and artists, although from June this is moving down to the main estate Tasting room.

Image: Stephen Blowers. New Tasting Room on the Estate

You can eat & stay here too, built originally for seasonal workers you now can B&B in style at the Flint barns. A new restaurant too!


With this hugely impressive set up and plans to have over a million bottle production within the next decade then you need to employ top Vineyard managers and winemakers which is exactly what they have done.

Cameron Roucher, The Vineyard manager. Bio from Rathfinny Website.

Here from before there were vines, Cameron came to Rathfinny after many years growing and working at some of the most prestigious wine companies in New Zealand and Australia. His early life saw him growing up on a hill country sheep farm, but it was a passion for growing that led him to vineyards. He has subsequently only ever worked in the wine industry. With the help of his team has built the vineyard from the ground up, and knows every inch of the site. He brings experience, knowledge and essential management skills in the area of vineyard management and production to Rathfinny.

Jonathan Médard, The Winemaker. Bio from Rathfinny Website.

Hailing from Epernay in the heart of Champagne, Rathfinny’s winemaker Jonathan MĂ©dard brings a wealth of international experience to Rathfinny Estate. On receiving a degree in biochemistry and a master’s in Oenology (UniversitĂ© de Reims), he trained in the wineries of Chateau Mouton Rothschild, Champagne Louis Roederer, MoĂ«t & Chandon and Champagne Boizel prior to honing his expertise in California and Virginia at Newton Vineyard and Kluge Estate respectively. An alumnus of the University of California at Davis’ Wine Executive program and fluent in three languages, Jonathan was most recently Vice President of Winemaking for up and coming Central Coast California winery, Conway Family Wines. He is excited to return to his sparkling roots with Rathfinny.

So finally onto the launch event! Somerset House on the Strand in London.


The day was split into two parts, the afternoon launch of the 2 new wines at a trade/press tasting and then a Gala evening.

The most important factor….. The wines…. Are they any good?

Well if you know anything about me and my twitter feed since 2015 if I talk about a wine then I like it. I’m not trying to be a MW or top notch wine critic so if I don’t like it I don’t post it. So you don’t need to be a rocket scientist after I have written this piece to understand these wines are damn good!


First up is the Rathfinny Estate 2014 Blanc de Blancs.

Release June 2018
100% Chardonnay
36 Mths Lees aging
Dosage: 4g/l ( fruit picked as ripe and late as possible for maximum flavour)
ABV. 12.5%
Vintage notes: 2014 was moderately warm and dry growing season, little rain during flowering (June) and Veraison (September) Harvest started 19th Oct for a small crop of high quality fruit.

Note: The label on the wine, has a zagged edge to its top … actually no its the “Seven Sisters”, or as most people know them as “The white cliffs of Dover”

The famous White Cliffs -The Seven Sisters…OK in this pic one was having a day off!
2014 Blanc de Blancs

Pale gold in colour, persistent perlage. Apricots with a super fresh zesty feel on the nose. Zesty lemon hits the palate which quickly turns into creamy apples. Mineral notes drive right through this wine. The terroir of the chalk shining through for a dry crisp finish. Overall for a first release of their sparkling wines…. 1st Class!!

The Blanc de Blancs was an absolute perfect pairing for these super fresh Oysters that had been flown in that morning from Jersey.

 Rathfinny Estate 2015 Rosé

Release June 2018
50% Pinot Noir, 40% Chardonnay, 10% Pinot Meunier
24 Mths Lees aging
Dosage: 2.5g/l
ABV. 12.5%
Vintage notes: Spring arrived late in 2015 after a cold winter, budburst and flowering were a week later than the 2014 vintage. Reasonable flowering from a warm summer provided a ripe yet small crop. Harvesting started 19th October. August and September was high rainfall but despite this the fruit was high quality and clean. Bearing in mind these vines were only planted in 2012 it was a brilliant result.


This wine is a delicate pink in the glass, vibrant perlage on the pour. The first thing that hits you is the berry fruits on the nose. On the palate its like an Eton Mess. (for those that don’t know what the hell Eton Mess is – Its smashed up strawberries, Chantilly cream and meringue. I now how to goggle the origins of this…..

Well it seems Eton Mess was first mentioned in print in 1893 and it is commonly believed to originate from Eton College and is served at the annual cricket match against the pupils of Harrow School.

The finish is long, vibrant mousse but although so fruit driven it it still dry and mineral too. GREAT WINE. Served perfectly with bite size Victoria sponges. (forgot to photo those…. ARRRGHHHH)

Interestingly when I said to Richard at the launch that I could see all the top restaurants in London and further afield serving this with afternoon tea the response was that initially the first delivery is going to the Savoy for exactly that!

Both these wines are very good indeed. Equally, both will pair with food but also delightful to drink on their own as an aperitif!

This first vintage is small, being just 5000 bottles of each of these wines…… however this estate is built for much bigger things. I can see in the future that RATHFINNY will be asked for, like people ask today for Moet and Verve.

This event was run incredibly well and I have to say that the PR company that Rathfinny are using are obviously seasoned pros!

After the afternoon tasting, my wife and I had a quick bite to eat and then on with the glad rags for the Gala evening.


We were greeted by an entrance of video screens of the estate and also (faux) vines planted all the way down the aisles. Down some steps we entered into the gala and wow it looked amazing down in the old vaulted basement rooms of Somerset House.


As product launches go and in my 25 years in business I have seen many, however not many are ever as smooth and polished as this Rathfinny launch event. I tip my hat to Sarah, Mark, everyone at the estate involved & their PR company for this “Grand” event.

Oh before I go they also have a collaboration making Gin from the wasted skins of the grapes. Oh boy its good! As any of you know me on twitter I am very partial to proper GIN. For research purposes only I tried a G&T and a Negroni. This is done in a venture with @SilentPoolGin (twitter) website https://silentpooldistillers.com/

You can also check out Rich’s blog about the “Spirit of Sussex” . http://rathfinnyestate.com/estate-news/2018/04/13/spirit-of-sussex/

Huge “Thank You” for the invite to Mark & Sarah and of course me old mate Rich who I am sure squeezed someone to get the wife and I on the guest list.

I am looking forward to huge things to come from Rathfinny!

Before I go Cam from Rathfinny has just posted interesting news from today too. http://rathfinnyestate.com/estate-news/2018/04/30/more-planting/


Check out:

Twitter: Richard James - @rathfinnyrich
         Rathfinny Estate - @rathfinnyestate.com
         Silent Pool Gin - @silentpooldistillers
         PR - @Thisismission 


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