The Rathfinny Wine Estate was once a large arable farm but was acquired in 2012 by Mark and Sarah Driver who transformed it into a vineyard specialising in the cultivation and production of sparkling wine.
Sussex wine growers cannot term it champagne – although their sparkling wine notably Nyetimber regularly beats bona fide champagnes in competition.
The estate is some 600 acres of which half is vineyard.
It benefits from being south facing and near the sea.
My friend John Buck, who built up the Te Mata estate in Hawkes Bay, New Zealand, regards the proximity of water as vital for successful wine cultivation.
The Rathfinny Estate is situated in Alfriston a picturesque village not far from Eastbourne on the South Downs. It’s worth a visit for the views alone.
I went there yesterday with a couple I know well, the husband being something of a wine connoisseur.
It’s quite an operation with both a shop and restaurant called Flint Barns.
I booked there and this was the final weekend of a marquee serving picnic food on refectory tables inside and outside the better to enjoy the spectacular view over the Downs.
We ordered the special cuvee sparkling wine and our general view was that it was too young and tart.
It needed a few more years in the bottle. It had the sharpness of a cava but lacked the richer, biscuity texture and quality of a superior champagne.
We also tasted the rose, white and pinot noir still wines and formed much the same view.
The young staff were attentive and well trained. You can also do wine tours and tastings.
My conclusion is that it is certainly worth a visit and within 3-5 years the production will have matured and accelerated.
At the moment the sparkling and still wines would benefit from a few years more in the cellar before drinking.