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Rathfinny to release an English Riesling

Rathfinny, England’s newest and largest vineyard will be releasing a Riesling under the name “Cradle Valley” in spring 2014, writes Olivia Bodle.

The Rathfinny Estate in East Sussex Credit: Vivienne Blakey

The announcement was made as the estate planted a further 20 hectares of vines. The wine will be produced in small volumes for a largely local market with a limited quantity predicted for the first year.

The first 20 hectares of vines were planted in April 2012 and this month another 20 hectares will be planted, making it the largest area to go under vine in England this year.

Approximately 37,000 Pinot Noir, 23,000 Chardonnay, 5,500 Pinot Meunier, 3,000 Riesling, 9,000 Pinot Gris, 3,600 Pinot Blanc and 3,600 Auxerrois vines will be planted over eight days – around 85,000 vines in total. Eventually the estate hope to plant 160 hectares

Rathfinny expects to create its first sparkling wine from Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier and Chardonnay, to be blended and bottled in 2014. However it won’t be released until 2017 at the earliest – spending a minimum of three years bottle ageing.

The winery at Rathfinny, near Alfriston in East Sussex is set for completion in August this year and will eventually produce one million bottles of Sussex sparkling wine a year. The multi-million pound winery is nestled in the heart of the estate and features sustainable design techniques and innovative low carbon technologies including a grass roof.

Mark Driver, who owns the estate with his wife Sarah, said: “We are looking forward to pouring the first glass of Cradle Valley Riesling in 2014 and hope to release a limited quantity of this richly complex, aromatic still white wine next year. The climate and soil in East Sussex are perfect for growing Riesling grapes.

“Rathfinny’s primary focus will always be on producing premium quality sparkling wine. But I believe we have the perfect growing conditions to produce a high quality Riesling and it makes perfect sense to introduce it under the Cradle Valley brand while we all wait patiently for the Rathfinny sparkling wine to be ready in 2017.”

He added: “The construction of our winery is also moving along at pace – in fact we completed the grass roof this week. Adding this specially designed grass roof, will help minimise the profile of the building and enables the winery to blend in with the beautiful Sussex landscape.”

Rathfinny has also commenced work on its flint barns, which are being converted into accommodation for seasonal workers as well as other special interest and educational groups visiting the South Downs National Park.

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