Newsletter & Events

Spring 2016

Rathfinny Wine Estate

A great start to 2016

Mark Driver - Owner

We’ve had a great start to 2016: 

The winter pruning has gone well, as Cameron will explain and we’ve managed to assemble a great team of local seasonal staff, many of whom helped out during harvest last year and came back for pruning. The Vineyard is looking very smart and starting to burst into life. 

We recently got planning permission for our new buildings, which we’ve talked about on our blog, and Jonathan will expand upon. These new buildings will process all our wine; bottling, riddling, disgorging, labeling and packaging and will also act as a wine cellar with the ability to store up to four million bottles of our sparkling wine as it ages ‘on-lees’ in temperature controlled comfort. 

We’ve also had the first review of our sparkling wine, which is still in the temporary cellar in the winery and ageing in the bottle. Let’s say it was a very encouraging review by someone who has been tasting sparkling wine for over thirty years, more on that later. 

Plus we’ve also held some great events at the Flint Barns, which are proving very popular with walkers and play host to our Sunday Roasts. 

Lastly, we’ve launched our new website, which allows people to book most things on-line and will be a great source of news and information.

Roll on the summer and let’s hope it’s a good one.

Rathfinny Wine Estate

New Website

Sarah Driver - Owner

For those of you that haven’t noticed, we’ve got a new website and we’re really pleased with it.  

Five years on, we decided that our ‘look’ had developed, as expressed in our brochure - cleaner, white like chalk, with a hint of texture.  We wanted to replicate this feel, and update the system so that it worked better on phones and ipads and we wanted to incorporate all the elements of what we do here at Rathfinny.  What’s been really interesting to me has been the need to constantly question and review.  I’ve done a few websites now, and realise that you spend a lot of time right at the beginning on it, but then rarely look at it yourself again.  We’d got to the situation where we were adding to the website, but not always in the most logical way. That's why I’ve found it so valuable to have had great feedback from all of you on what you like, don’t like and spelling mistakes!  Keep it coming.  

We wanted to use a format that displayed all the brilliant photos we’ve taken and continue to take, so that you keep up to date with how the Estate is developing.  We’ve set out more clearly the ways that you can visit the Estate, be it on a tour, for a lovely Sunday lunch, a celebration or a corporate ‘away day’ and we’ve also changed the Estate news so that you can keep up to date with everything, or just single out blogs, Estate sightings or wine news.  There’s a simple on-line booking system incorporated in the site, and so far it seems to be working - fingers crossed.  On that note, tours for this year are selling out fast.  We’ve put on a few extra dates, but best to get your bookings in soon to be sure of a place.


Storm damage

Cameron Roucher - Vineyard Manager

We’ve now got to a size where we can’t manage to do the entire pruning ourselves with our fulltime and regular casual staff. So this year we have called in a great bunch of local people to help out to supplement the numbers. A lot of them were with us for harvest so it is nice to see familiar faces back for the pruning. As per other years we started pruning in January and managed to get it finished by the first week of April, bar a few rain days here and there it all went fairly smoothly.

Our windbreaks took a beating this year with the all the winter storms that came through, however it was Storm Katie and Storm Imogen caused the most damage, bending posts in a number of areas. Luckily that was all the damage we received, it could have been a lot worse.

We aren’t doing any planting this year which I’m sure all the vineyard team are actually quite happy about. It will give us a good chance to evaluate what areas/blocks/varieties/clones are working best to enable us to plan for the future plantings.

Now that pruning and winter jobs are all completed we look ahead to warmer weather-eventually!

Rathfinny Wine Estate

Photography and yoga

Georgia Mallinson - Head of Business Development

The new season got off to an incredibly busy start with lots of enquiries about events at Rathfinny. Many of these enquiries were from companies wanting space for off site meetings. It seems that the view from the Tasting Room and the surroundings of the Flint Barns are conducive to doing some work and not too distracting! Alternatively, when we welcomed Black + White Photography magazine, from Lewes, to the Flint Barns distractions were exactly what they wanted for their workshop. There were some incredible photos and their output can be seen in the magazine in the July issue BW191 on sale June 9th. Here’s the group in the Winery. Photo credit Anna Bonita-Evans.

We are also embarking on a new venture teaming up with Lucy Newport from Anahata Yoga in Eastbourne. Lucy has 12 years of yoga experience, she runs her own studio, teaches privately as well as running European yoga retreats. This is Lucy’s first UK retreat and we look forward to welcoming her to the Estate on the 13th-15th May. We are also very lucky that Jane Green our local, yet international, author, speaker and broadcaster on astronomy will also be taking part in the weekend retreat. 

We asked Lucy and Jane to describe what they have in store for us over the weekend.

What will the Rathfinny weekend hold and does it matter if I am a beginner to yoga?

Yoga at Rathfinny will ultimately be a fun and relaxed weekend, with exceptional food, new experiences of yoga, wine tasting and star gazing set in a beautiful location. With a carefully constructed menu for vegetarians and meat eaters and coffee and a variety of teas available throughout the day, we will be truly looked after. And by night, cosy blankets upon our beds, to keep us snug in the quietness of the Sussex Downs. 

And as for the yoga, many people can practice yoga all together and modify and advance to their own abilities, it doesn't matter if you are a total beginner or if you have a 50 year practice, as people quickly realise that yoga is like an iceberg, with 5% of the 'work' happening to the body and 95% of practice occurring on the inside. Our yoga, on this magnificent weekend, will include postures, breath work and gentle meditation and relaxation practices.

"I truly look forward to meeting you on this sumptuous weekend. I have already decided I am going to very much enjoy it. If you have any yoga concerns or questions, please do email me on and include your telephone number if you would like me to call you to discuss. Kind wishes, Lucy"

Jane Green – Astronomy author, speaker and broadcaster.

Why is Rathfinny the perfect place for astronomy and star watching?

Big open skies define the countryside.  Rathfinny has these in abundance.  Not only is it the perfect place for producing sparkling wine but, nestled in Cradle Valley, it is shielded from street lights and other forms of artificial light pollution.  Consequently, stargazers can enjoy panoramic views of truly dark skies, ideal for revealing thousands of sparkling stars in our Galaxy and other celestial wonders in the Universe normally lost to the naked eye.

What might we see that weekend?

A partially illuminated Moon, perfectly placed for viewing its craters, mountains and lava ‘seas’.  The planets Mars, Jupiter and Saturn.  Stunning constellations such as The Plough - guiding us to Polaris, the Pole Star; Cassiopeia; the ‘Summer Triangle’ with its dazzling stars Deneb, Altair and Vega; There will also be shooting stars streaking across the sky and a possible pass of the International Space Station.


Framed by the South Downs, with the nearby river Cuckmere snaking towards the sea, Rathfinny is a nature lover’s paradise.  On a typical summer’s evening, warm air carries the scent of the sea and Sussex downland, with its aroma of wild flowers and sweet grass.  Whilst stargazing in peaceful surroundings, you may hear the distinctive 'toowhit-twhoo' of a Tawny owl, spot a fox slinking through the valley or glimpse a bat flapping overhead.

If you would like to find out more about Jane please visit or follow her on Twitter @BigUpSpaceJane

If you are interested in offsite meetings or joining us for the yoga retreat please contact us below



Rathfinny Wine Estate

Spring has Sprung

Richard James - Operations and Environment Officer

Daffodils are blooming, skylarks are singing (aren’t they always) and by the time you read this our vines will have started budburst – spring is sprung.

With the new flush of flowers come all things that buzz.  Buzzing insects and other minibeasts are being collected professionally by Janine a PhD student from Sussex University on our vineyard.  Her studies will gain momentum as this year we will be sowing our myriad of flower mixes to see what works best for the ‘good beasts’ to feed on the ‘bad beasts’.

So what can you see at the moment?  The behemoths of the sky, a.k.a bumblebees, are on the wing looking for food and a place to call home.  Blackthorn blossom is out so many of the trees will appear to be dusted in icing sugar from a distance.  With this flush of food on the blackthorn comes the Early mining bee Andrena haemorrhoa, a stunning specimen with a rustic fur coat.

This brings me to another bee which caused quite an interesting discussion in the office.The discussion was on cleptoparasitism and the Painted Nomad bee – now how many other offices talk about this?  This delightful little creature is found throughout the vineyard and on the Rathfinny Trail so keep your eyes peeled for a very small wasp like bee flying swiftly over the flowers.

The Trail is open throughout the year and I’ll be posting my sightings on to our new website as and when I see things.  Any information on the Trail will also be posted.  

This month the Flint Barns played host to Business Cornerstones for a breakfast meeting. 53 individual businesses were present for a full breakfast spread of local produce which was followed by a presentation on the Estate and its wildlife.  An ideal location to have a meeting in the middle of a vineyard and network amongst the vines!

Rathfinny Wine Estate

Gun Room colours

Alison Cowley - Gun Room Manager

So we’ve made it through the winter. We may not work outdoors, but here in the Gun Room we are very sensitive to the weather, for as soon as the sun shines people are out on the Tye and the shop is buzzing. We love this time of year. 

To celebrate the change of season we’ve embraced colour. We have arresting, design-led boxed cups, espresso sets and plates in the Viva range by Magpie. Think Bridget Riley meets Piet Mondrian and you might be close to the impact of these gorgeous pieces. Rugs in yellow, orange, pink and green by Welsh firm Tweedmill provide areas of colourful warmth which draw people in. We’re re-ordering the duck egg blankets which sold out in a week.

We’ve found some great, stylish picnic glasses by Govino – a new and popular addition to our range of glassware – although of course they’re made of plastic. Look out for them on the central table next to Sipsmiths’ ‘ The Original London Cup’ which is sure to come into its own as the weather warms up. 

Sussex makes some great products. The range of candles and bath goods from the West Sussex company Parkminster continues to grow, and we now have large bowl based candles in Grapefruit, Fresh Fig and Meadow in store.  Uckfield based Ouse Valley jams and chutneys are very popular with our customers.  Fans of Sussex Gold smoked rapeseed oil can breathe easily again as this is back in the Gun Room, now ready bottled. 

Those of you who know the Gun Room will know that art is important to us. I am delighted to welcome two new artists to the Gun Room: Sussex woodcut artist Keith Pettit and Celia Hart, who designed our distinctive Cradle Valley label. We look forward to a long and happy relationship with them. 

We are also privileged to be able to show the work of Sussex artist Harold Mockford. We will shortly be changing the current display. The new works to be shown include Yellow Tree, 1961, The Links, 1978, Dewpond at night, 1995, Night Ferry II, 1990 or  St Mary's Church, Eastbourne, undated. Please do come and view these wonderful works, many of which are inspired by the local landscape. 

As we head towards summer we are busy planning a special Vineyard Beauty and Wellbeing event which will take place on Thursday June 16th. Please call 01323 870022 for further details. 


Please call by, come and taste our Cradle Valley wine, and stop for a chat. We would be delighted to meet you.

Rathfinny Wine Estate

New plans

Jonathan Medard - Winemaker

We are thrilled to announce that planning permission was granted for our Phases 2 and 3 buildings! Phase 2 will be where processes will take place, from riddling to disgorging, to bottling and labelling. Phase 3 will be the storage for our sparkling wines to age on their lees for three years. We’ve been working on the development of these buildings and tenders are out so it is just a matter of time before we can actually start the works.

At the Winery, the 2015 wines have been fined and after several blending sessions we have agreed on the still wine: it will be a 3,200 bottles blend based on Pinot Blanc and Pinot Gris, with a few more varieties to add to the complexity. We are still working on the blends for the sparkling but there will be a Rosé and a Pinot Noir based blend – the total production for sparkling was around 20,000 bottles. Bottling is scheduled for mid-May so the still wine could be released as early as July 2016. 


Rathfinny Wine Estate

Spring flavours

Ade Lamb - Flint Barns Manager

As spring has arrived we are looking forward to some special seasonal produce we can use here at the Flint Barns. There is a nice amount of Wild Garlic that will definitely be used for Wild Garlic Soup that will appear on one of our upcoming Sunday Roasts. Also just starting to appear are the Urtcia dioica or common nettle, again we are going out to forage some of these little stingers and make some lovely soup with them. Also coming around the end of April is the superb Asparagus plant, we buy nearly all of ours from South Brockwells Farm can’t wait to have the first bunches on our menus. Personally, I just love the first Jersey Royals as well. 

Jane, one of our staff at the Flint Barns recently went on holiday to Lanzarote and spotted the vines above. Have a read of what she noticed 

La Geria - Growing wine in the lava fields of Lanzarote

It was fascinating to see vines growing in black lava on a recent trip to Lanzarote.

Just outside the Timanfaya National Park is where the grapes are grown that produce the Malvasia wine of Lanzarote. The cultivation of these grapes is not easy due to some harsh weather conditions - low rainfall and strong winds. To protect the vines from the wind, they are planted by hand in individual craters which are dug down to a depth of 2 metres. A semi-circular wall made from volcanic stone is then built around each vine. To help combat the low rainfall, the vines are then covered in black cinders which allow the night time humidity to be stored and later transferred to the roots as water which will then be stored and encourage further growth. On the plus side, the properties of the volcanic ash mean that there is less weeding to be carried out and only a small amount of fertiliser is needed for the vines, once every 2 - 3 years.

The harvesting of the grapes generally begins in July and continues in August and the vines are pruned during February.

The oldest vineyard in the Canaries, El Grifo, can be found in La Geria and here is a great museum which shows how the wine has been produced since 1775. All the grapes are harvested manually and about 400,000 and 600,000 bottles are produced each year. All of the wines can be tasted at the various Bodegas which are popping up all over this fast expanding region and having sampled many, I can tell you that they are delicious!

Jane Keates

Philippa has also been a busy bee whilst not working at the Flint Barns. Phil works with all the great people in the vineyard team and she has been busy in the vines pruning, tying down, re-planting and now moving the wires as well.

The next few months are going to be really busy at the Flint Barns, we have a few wedding receptions coming up along with corporate events, private parties and plenty of families coming to stay. We have our hugely popular Sunday Roasts, another Supper Club & some really cool Jazz nights being planned. If you would like details a week or so before the dates go public then do join the Flint Barns mailing list – about once or twice a month we’ll email you with a full guide to what events are going to be happening at the Flint Barns. Please email me at and I’ll add you to our list.

Confirmed dates below:

April 17th – Sunday Roast

April 24th- English Classics

8th May – Sunday Brunch

14th & 15th May – Yoga retreat at Flint Barns

22nd May – Sunday Roast