This family-owned estate was established in 2010 by Mark and Sarah Driver, with the first vineyards being planted in April 2012. Rathfinny’s estate vineyard now extends to over 93 hectares in the South Downs, just three miles from the Channel. Lying on a south-facing slope, the site is predominantly planted with Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Meunier and benefits from a semi-continental maritime climate and free-draining chalk soils, providing the ideal conditions to ripen grapes for sparkling wine. Rathfinny uses only estate-grown fruit for their four traditional-method sparkling wines: Classic Cuvée, Blanc de Blancs, Blanc de Noirs and Rosé.
The hand-harvested and whole-bunch pressed grapes are vinified with as little intervention as possible and a low dosage to preserve the purest expression of place and vintage. This preservation of character starts in the vineyard, says Sarah Driver. “We aim to be a sustainable wine producer. As a result, we take the stewardship of our land seriously. All our buildings are constructed using locally-sourced materials, such as flint from the vineyards, and we have worked with Natural England and the South Downs National Park to implement a programme of improvements to enhance wildlife habitats and reclaim areas of natural chalk grassland, as well as creating wildlife corridors throughout the vineyard.”
This ‘re-wilding’ of what was previously an arable farm ensures greater biodiversity. This focus on the environment, and to sustainability and the soil, ensures good quality fruit. Mark Driver adds that “sustainability is multi-layered, it’s everything we touch. It’s not just about the use of carbon or energy or chemicals. It’s about how we treat our soils, our use of water and all the inputs we have in the winemaking process, the whole environment.” This attention to detail shines through in the wines, which are beautifully made, elegant and balanced.
The Classic Cuvée is a blend of Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Meunier. It was fermented solely in stainless steel and, like all Rathfinny’s base wines, went through malolactic fermentation. It was aged on lees in bottle for 36 months prior to disgorgement. The black grape character gives it nice depth and ensures great balance and elegance with 5 g/l dosage.
This wines show why, in three short years, Rathfinny has come to be recognised as one of England’s best producers of sparkling wines.