Rathfinny releases new ‘accessible’ English sparkling wine

Sussex wine producer Rathfinny has said the price point of its newly released and first classic cuvée, costing under £30 a bottle, was a deliberate move in order to attract more people to the category.

Speaking via a Zoom call last week, Sarah Driver, co-owner of Rathfinny, said the competitive pricing of the estate’s first classic cuvée was intentional. She said hopes the wine, which has a recommend retail price of £29.50, but is available at certain independents for as little as £26, will mean that more people get a taste of English sparkling.

“I’m a firm believer that everyone should be drinking sparkling wine, and I want people to be able to access our wine,” Driver said.

“I’m actually a very thrifty shopper, and I think that the recommended price for this wine is giving buyers a really high quality and fantastic sparkling wine for the money.”

The new 2016 Classic Cuvée

The Pinot Noir-dominant cuvée, a style which co-owner Mark Driver favours, will always be a vintage wine. Like Gusbourne in Kent, the Drivers have made the decision not to go down the non-vintage route.

Mark Driver added: “I love the styles of Bollinger and Pol Roger, which are dominated by Pinot Noir, and the fruit flavour that goes with it.

“For an ‘entry level’ wine, the classic cuvée is essentially our house style, and it’s good value. The dosage is quite low and sets it in the ‘ultra brut’ category, but it doesn’t taste like that.”

The cuvée has spent a total of three years on its lees and has a dosage of 5g/l. Driver said that the additional hang time on the vine enables the estate to achieve extra ripeness, reducing the need for dosage in the finished product.

He said the the sea breezes, which blow across the vineyard every afternoon, reduce disease pressure, and meant in 2016 that the estate could pick at the end of October, two to three weeks later than some of its neighbouring producers.

Rathfinny is celebrating its tenth anniversary this year and now has a portfolio of four sparkling wines. It has around 91 hectares of vines planted, of which around 60 are in production. The rest will start producing commercial volumes by 2024.

Before Covid-19, the winery sold the majority of its wine to the on-trade, a market which evaporated when restaurants and bars were forced to close back in March.

Driver said the coronavirus had “fast-forwarded” Rathfinny’s plans, meaning what it was intending to do in 2021, it has now done in 2020.

“We’ve gone from having relationships with about a 12 independents to now supplying over 50,” he said, stating that the estate had decided from the start that it would not supply supermarkets.

He added that he believed that the on-trade would start to reopen towards the end of summer, and that while the stock allocations have had to be “rejigged”, the producer has kept back wine for restaurants.

The winery has now expanded into e-commerce, a service that will go live on 29 May. UK customers can now order wines to their door, with no minimum order size (volume and price), but a delivery charge is applied to orders below £85. Nearby residents can also use this service to pick up wine via a click and collect system.

For Sarah Driver, this has been a passion project.

“I never wanted us to be seen as London or south-east-centric, we’re an English product. I want us to available in the finest restaurants around the country,” she said.

Together with its 2016 Classic Cuvée, Rathfinny has also released its Blanc de Noirs and Blanc de Blancs from the same year, as well as its rosé from 2017.

Read more:

PLUMPTON TUTOR JOINS RATHFINNY ESTATE TEAM

RATHFINNY CHOOSES HK AS FIRST EXPORT MARKET

‘END OF THE BEGINNING’ AS FIRST RATHFINNY SPARKLING WINES DISGORGED

RATHFINNY AIMS TO SELL UP TO 50% OF ITS PRODUCTION TO KEY OVERSEAS MARKETS

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