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Rathfinny’s 10th anniversary delivers Classic Cuvée launch and new ecommerce site

Published:  12 May, 2020

English wine estate Rathfinny marked its 10th anniversary with the launch of its inaugural 2016 Classic Cuvée on Monday, “completing” its line up of Sussex sparkling wines.

The fizz, comprising a signature style Pinot Noir-dominated blend with Chardonnay and Pinot Meunier, was shown at a virtual portfolio tasting alongside the 2016 Blanc de Blancs, 2016 Blanc de Noirs and 2017 Rosé Brut.

Fresh, complex and clearly age-worthy, the 2016 Classic Cuvée is unusual for a top sparkling wine as it follows the estate’s tradition of only releasing single vintage wines, with all fruit from its own vineyards surrounding the winery.

“Our 2016 Classic Cuvée is a wonderful reflection of the first significant harvest at Rathfinny,” said Rathfinny co-owner Mark Driver, as he and business-partner wife Sarah led the tasting.

“It’s a lovely and approachable blend of all three grape varieties… it demonstrates the style of vintage sparkling wine that we intend to release as our Classic Cuvée.”

Rathfinny previous made available small quantities of its 2017 Classic Cuvée ‘En Primeur’, ahead of a 2021 release for the wines.

Against the backdrop of Covid-19, Rathfinny also used the occasion to announce the launch of a new ecommerce platform to sell direct online, along with a re-opening of its cellar door in Alfriston for drive-by collections from the end of May.

Asked by Harpers about the next 10 years and the estate’s previously stated ambition to grow significant exports, Driver said that while newer plantings would continue to deliver more fruit over the next few years, Rathfinny would “continue to take it slowly”.

“This isn’t about producing the most [wine] in the fastest time, it’s about doing it properly. And that’s been a lot of hard work and a lot of investment, a balance, at the right time and in the right place,” he said, adding that sales in Hong Kong had been strong.

With the single vineyard, single vintage approach more comparable to the grower Champagne model than the cross-vintage blended, multiple site-sourced of the big name French marques, Driver added that when it came to any future vineyard expansion, all plantings would be either on or adjacent to the existing South Downs property.

“You may know Ten Minutes by Tractor [on Australia’s Mornington Peninsula], where the idea is that all vineyards must be no further away from the winery than a 10 minute journey by tractor,” he said. “That would be as far as we’d want to go here.”

Driver revealed that he had mooted the idea of planting vines to the neighbouring Firle Estate, which straddles the same ridge of chalk Downs, adding that for now, though, with new vines coming online over the next few years, Rathfinny is more than capable of meeting increasing demand.

Stockists of the 2016 Classic Cuvée will include: Lea & Sandeman, Cambridge Wines, Hedonism, The Oxford Wine Company, Elicite, Hennings and Rise and Vine.