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Rathfinny going against the grain with vintage approach

Rather than having a non-vintage cuvée as its flagship, English sparkling wine producer Rathfinny is going against the grain with its vintage-only approach.

Speaking to db during the launch of its 2017 Classic Cuvée and 2017 Blanc de Blancs, co-owner Mark Driver said he’s keen not to dilute the quality of standout years, but rather adopt the grower Champagne model of expressing each vintage.

“If you feel you can ripen your fruit to the right levels year on year, why dilute the quality of a fantastic year with wine from a lesser year?

“Our approach at Rathfinny is all about celebrating the vintage. We consider ourselves a grower producer, as we’re a single site 93ha estate that’s able to control our own fruit and ripen it to the right level.

“We have a very experienced team and can really control our yields. If we see that the grapes aren’t getting sufficiently ripe due to the weather conditions then we can drop fruit.

“Due to our coastal location we don’t suffer from late spring frosts and we don’t get botrytis. We can leave the fruit on the vine as late as November and are able to ripen our grapes enough to make really good vintage sparkling wine.”

Plumpton graduate Driver said the house style he’s aiming for at Rathfinny is Pinot dominant, with Meunier adding vibrancy and Chardonnay finesse.

“Due to our vintage approach, our wines will be different each year and we want to celebrate those differences year on year,” said Driver, who is keen to experiment with longer lees ageing on some of his sparklers to create added layers of complexity.

Rathfinny was founded by husband and wife team Mark and Sarah Driver three miles from the Seven Sisters cliffs in East Sussex, in 2010.

The estate is located in the South Downs National Park, an area of outstanding natural beauty, and occupies the main part of Cradle Valley, on a south-facing slope close to the Cuckmere Valley.

The free draining clay loam soils over chalk, similar to those in Champagne, provide a ready source of water for the vines during the drier summer months.

The first vines were planted in 2012 and today Rathfinny comprises 93ha of Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Meunier, along with a little Pinot Gris.

Rathfinny Classic Cuvée 2017 will go on sale at Harvey Nichols in May priced at £29 a bottle, while the estate’s 2017 Blanc de Blancs will be available at Harrods at £42 a pop.

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