Whilst in East Sussex last week I wanted to take my parents somewhere a little different, and I found an absolute treasure trove of a place just 10 minutes from their home.
To say the Rathfinny Wine Estate is tucked away is hardly legitimate when it occupies 600 acres, with flawless rows of vines growing on the south facing hills of the South Downs. Yet the entrance gates to the estate are located just beyond the chocolate box village of Alfriston near the Deans Place Hotel and one could easily drive past them.
Rathfinny began life in 2010 when Sarah and Mark Driver planted their first vines two years later, and in 2014 collected their first harvest. Today the family are producing quality sparkling wine from Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Meunier grapes.
The views across the estate in every direction are stunning. The Romans said that the ultimate place to grow grapes is 3 miles from the sea, and sure enough across the Downs is Haven Brow, the first of the Seven Sisters, a series of chalk sea cliffs on the English Channel coast
From the entrance the long winding single lane drive takes you into the heart of the estate and the cellar and bottling facilities. Every bottle is hand-processed and stored with room for 4 million bottles, each aged for a minimum of 3 years, 2 for Rosé. Call for a tour.
Also here, bookmarked for next time, is the Tasting Room restaurant. Open Wednesday to Sunday for lunch, and at weekends for a tasting-menu dinners with optional wine flights. I was given a tour by the manager, and I definitely want to go back.
We toured the store, where they offer tastings and sell a range of goods as well as other wines and spirits. Newly added outside within the past few weeks is ‘The Hut’ (photo) where affable staff served coffees, snacks, cakes and of course wines. Tables and chairs were neatly paraded in front of the most awe-inspiring view which as an added bonus has paraglider’s from a local club soaring through the clouds in the distance.
The chalk soil here plus the irrefutable effects of global warming have made wines in this region some of the best in the country, especially the sparkling kind.
Further down the gravel drive are the red roofs and pretty courtyard of the restored Flint Barns that were destroyed by the 1987 storms. Here 10 rooms are available to stay overnight in.
This land was originally three farms, one owner was actually called ‘Finny’ and back during the both wars Canadian troops used the area as training grounds.
It was a beautiful spot, enormous and a hidden gem all at the same time. If you are ever in the area I’d recommend a visit and partaking in some Rathfinny wine.
Every time i read your post i think we have so much in common. First i have been a chalton supporter since 1950aged 3 yes i was at the 7- 6 game and i think i remember Sam Bratrom in goal (should have played for England) second i lived in Petts wood (the Covert) was a reagular in the Bulls head am sure you and your son know it well. Then i moved too East Sussex Greystones Etchingham opp Haremere hall Sussex and the south downs are so special nowadays i live in Thiland and have to watch Chalton on My phone. Thanks for your interesting insights good luck RICHARD COYR IN
Thank you for the comment Richard. I was a 60’s child so I still have a bit of time to follow your trail to Thailand.
there are a lot of good wine producers along the downs, Sussex is even looking for a regional brand protection.
I’ve noticed that. This a good website for research 🍷