Demand for English wine as Rathfinny plants more vines
Rathfinny Estate has received calls from supermarkets keen to stock its English wine, despite being a year away from selling its first bottle.
Speaking at the planting of 85,000 vines across 50 acres of the vineyard, owner Mark Driver said three major multiples had already approached Rathfinny to ask if the estate had any wine to sell.
“In a good year England produces five million bottles of wine but consumption is 1.8 billion bottles, which means England produces less than a day’s worth of consumption. There’s a good market for English wine,” he said.
Rathfinny planted its first 50 acres of vines last year and plans to complete construction of a multi-million pound winery in August. The winery will first be used to produce small quantities of still wine from last year’s Riesling vines.
“I’m ever the optimist but am optimistic that we’ll get a small harvest of under 20 tonnes this year,” Driver said. “It was so wet and cold that we didn’t get as much growth as we should have done, but it was the same across all of northern Europe.”
The rest of the grapes, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Meunier, will be used in a sparkling wine which will be bottle fermented for three years. Driver plans to brand the still wine as Cradle Valley and the sparkling as Sussex Sparkling.
Rathfinny will continue planting vines until 2018 and eventually produce up to one million bottles of predominantly sparkling wine each year from the 600 acre site.
Driver said he still planned to target sales through independent merchants who could recommend English sparkling wine as an alternative to Champagne and Rathfinny is also planning to open a shop of its own in the nearby village of Alfriston. He plans to eventually export up to half Rathfinny’s production to Europe, Asia and North America.
Rathfinny has also started work to convert the flint barns on the former farm for seasonal workers and education groups visiting the South Downs National Park.