The Daily Mail has reported that a new vineyard is being planted in Sussex that will be the UK’s largest, with plans to produce one million bottles of sparkling wine a year. Rathfinny Estate is owned by Mark Driver who intends “to take on the French at their own game, producing quality sparkling wine to rival the best Champagne has to offer.”
The vineyard covers 400 acres and lies near the coast at Alfriston, East Sussex. The soils are very similar to those of Champagne and the grapes being planted are Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier and Riesling. The estate will employ 30 full time staff and up to 200 seasonal workers. Jonathan Médard has been hired as winemaker, having previously worked with Champagne Houses Louis Roederer and Moet & Chandon.
A state of the art winery will be completed by the summer of 2013. A small amount of still wine will be produced and could hit the shelves as early as next year. The sparkling wine is planned for release in 2016 or 2017 and the retail price will be around £25 – £26.
I will be interested to see what it tastes like. The sparkling wine that has made the biggest impression on me recently is Champagne Morel – which I believe knocks the spots of the likes of Veuve Cliquot et al! This is a fantastic Champagne from a small producer in Les Riceys and I highly recommend it. The Champagne House Morel et Fils has 5 generations of Champagne producing expertise behind it and hold many awards – which doesn’t surprise me as it is beautifully made. If you can’t wait until 2016 / 17 to taste a good Champagne I suggest you check out our website.
The Rathfinny Estate is also funding the construction of a new Wine Research Centre at Plumpton College, part of Brighton University, to support the development of skills that the English wine industry will require as it grows.
Mr Driver told the Daily Mail that:
“The Rathfinny project is not just about making wine: we are committed to supporting the wider ambitions of the English wine industry and that means nurturing the skills it requires to fulfil its potential.
You’ll find that every major wine area is supported by a research centre, which is why I was so keen to invest in one at Plumpton. We will need skilled workers in this area as the industry takes off.
I do believe we are at the beginning of an emerging industry in southern England and I know the local people here are very supportive of what we are trying to do. We have also had encouragement from other local wine producers too. All we need to do is convince people in London and across the country to buy English.”
According to Mr Driver winemakers across the Channel in Champagne are ‘intrigued’ to see what they are doing at Rathfinny Estate:
“Several French vineyard owners are trying to purchase or rent land here because it is much cheaper than in Champagne.”
Currently England produces 4 million bottles of wine each year – which is actually less than we consume each day.
Champagne may not be booming in Britain at the moment but Moet and Chandon announced plans to create sparkling wine in China last year.