UK’s largest winery officially opens

Rathfinny Estate in East Sussex has opened the largest purpose built winery in the UK, which aims to produce a million bottles of sparkling wine a year by 2020.

Rathfinny Estate in East Sussex

Rathfinny Estate in East Sussex. Credit: Martin Swatton Design

The opening at the estate in Alfriston last Friday was overseen by Liberal Democrat MP and Secretary of State for Business Innovation and Skills, Vince Cable.

The energy efficient building, short-listed for a RIBA architectural award earlier this year, was created by Martin Swatton Design.

It features a grass roof seeded with South Downs’ grassland, along with a bank of photovoltaic solar panels.

“The opening of our winery marks the next stage in achieving our goal of establishing Rathfinny as premium producer of Sussex sparkling wine,” said co-owner Mark Driver.

The Drivers take Vince Cable on a tour of the vineyard

Mark and Sarah Driver take Vince Cable on a tour of the vineyard

“It is particularly fitting to have Vince Cable open the Winery as he has been such a loyal supporter of our project,” he added.

Rathfinny aims to produce over a million bottles of sparkling wine a year by 2020 and is due to for its fist harvest this year, with its first bottles of fizz slated for release in 2017.

To date, 64 hectares of the estate’s 160 hectares have been planted with vines for sparkling wine production, with the Drivers having acquired the land in 2010.

Its 160-hectare size makes Rathfinny England’s largest single vineyard site.

“We are at the beginning of this fantastic journey where we hope to witness Sussex sparkling wine become as well known and globally respected as the likes of Champagne is today,” said co-owner Sarah Driver.

Rathfinny aims to eventually sell up to 50% of its production to key overseas markets in Europe, Asia and North America.

In addition to Champagne varieties Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Meunier, the estate is considering using small amounts of Pinot Blanc and Pinot Gris in its blend.

Later this year Rathfinny will open its Flint Barns, which will be able to sleep 46 workers during the harvest and will serve as a guesthouse during the rest of the year.

Rathfinny has worked with the National Trust to create “wildlife corridors” and other ways of improving the local natural habitat and biodiversity in the area.

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