Back in June a few of us at Cru had the distinct pleasure of finding ourselves traipsing about some of England’s most picturesque and iconic landscapes. The South Downs are as perfect and idyllic a place as one can get, terminating of course in the dramatic, postcard chalk cliffs of the Seven Sisters. With warm, dry summers as these and increasing attention and care, there is nothing surprising about visiting such a place and being told that someone is making some very fine wine here.
Still, it was a remarkable treat to finally visit the highly-touted, visually-stunning Rathfinny Estate just outside the medieval Sussex village of Alfriston. On the approach to the estate from the south the view is truly impressive. Situated on a south-facing slope, the vineyards sweep down the hillside with incredible manicured perfection, with a set of somehow beautiful corrugated barns at the top and the magnificent green hill top rising gently above.
“It was a remarkable treat to finally visit the highly-touted, visually-stunning Rathfinny Estate”
Lining the entire length of this gentle valley, from the striking gate at the eastern end to the Flint Barn guest-house and restaurant to the west, this is a truly beautiful place that can only be fully appreciated in person (the photo above hopefully goes some way to explaining it).
What is most refreshing about it is that the scenery, the buildings and the branding all celebrate the particular Englishness of the place without resorting to gimmickry. I hate this word but the most efficient way to describe Rathfinny’s appeal is this: ‘classy’.
The estate was founded in 2010 but they only released their first sparkling wine in April, so if you haven’t heard of Rathfinny yet, don’t worry. We sat down for a glass of wine in the tasting room and tasted the Blanc de Blancs and Rosé Brut. They’re both really pleasing wines that have a decidedly individualistic character. The Rosé is soft, generous and loaded with strawberries and cream, while the white has a distinctive apple character. Both have a slightly dry-cider edge to them which really adds a sense of individuality.
In addition to their classic Sussex bubbly, they also produce a very tasty, summery dry white called Cradle Valley, a blend of Pinot Blanc and Pinot Gris (in 2016 at least) with the occasional dollop of Chardonnay thrown in when the vintage calls for it. This was the first wine that they came out with and the first experience I had of the estate some years back. It’s a really impressive wine and makes me wonder why English estates don’t focus a bit more on their table wines. They can be really impressive.
My one complaint is that there isn’t nearly enough of the stuff available! Limited for now to just a bottle per person at the cellar door while I want to snap up cases for my cellar! Anyways, here’s hoping that the future is as bright as it seems for Rathfinny and that we start to see more of this superb estate.