Rathfinny debuts at The Ritz: Here’s why their English sparkling wine is a showpiece15th May 19 | Lifestyle
And what makes their fizz so fantastic it’s outshone the French, says Sam Wylie-Harris.
Rathfinny Wine Estate may be one of England’s newest vineyards, but they’re already crafting world class sparkling wines.
Their first fizz only hit the market last summer, but they’re gracing the wine lists of swanky London venues such as The Savoy, Le Gavroche, Dinner by Heston, Annabel’s nightclub – and to crown the day, their latest vintage releases have been chosen as ‘Sparkling of the Month’ at The Ritz London.
Indeed, the rewards of patience in a former arable farm in the South Downs represents some of the finest quality sparkling wine production. According to Giovanni Ferlito, head of wine and beverage, The Ritz: “I believe the quality of their wines marks them as a leading light within the industry.”
This is only the second time in The Ritz’s illustrious 113-year history that a non-champagne has been chosen for this monthly honour.
Rathfinny was founded in 2010 by former hedge fund boss Mark Driver and his lawyer wife Sarah. Having invested more than £10 million creating a beautiful vineyard with similar chalky soils to those of northern France, today Rathfinny comprises more than 200 acres of predominantly pinot noir, chardonnay and pinot meunier.
At the tasting of the Estate’s first Blanc de Noirs 2015 and new Rosé Brut 2016 held in The Music Room at The Ritz, Mark Driver tells us more…
In the world of English wines, what makes Rathfinny stand out from the crowd?
“To me, it’s the quality of the fruit. We’re blessed in this part of the world, particularly where we are, with a very long ripening season,” says Driver.
“Because we’re in Sussex on the chalk downs, we’re able to ripen our grapes all the way through to the end of October, and we pick generally middle to end-October which is quite a late harvest.
“And there you have very ripe fruit – and still have that lovely rich acidity. You get really ripe skins which give you all these fantastic rich flavours and to me, that’s the joy of Rathfinny. Lovely ripe grapes with really rich flavours.”
What flavours should we look for in the two new fizzes?
“Our rosé is just full of lovely rich young red fruits, so you get the strawberries, raspberries, little bit of fresh rhubarb,” enthuses Driver.
“The Blanc de Noirs is an amazing food wine because it’s 65% pinot noir, which goes so well with lamb, even pork and other meats and fish. We’ve even served it with venison, but typically lamb is the go-to.”
Indeed, epicureans often suggest a fragrant pinot noir (sparkling or still) with its juicy acidity and bright fruity notes as the perfect match with tender spring lamb.
What sets Rathfinny Rosé Brut 2016 apart from the 2015?
“There’s slightly less chardonnay. Last year, we had nearly 30% chardonnay within the blend and this year it’s closer to 20%. So you still have that lovely palate with those stone fruits and peaches coming through from the chardonnay, but it’s slightly less so, and we’re emphasizing the red fruits from the pinot noir and meunier.”
How does this English fizz differ from French?
“Firstly, our fruit is often riper because in Champagne they’re having to pick their fruit so early, because it’s so warm.
“Last year they were harvesting in August and we had the joy of picking in October. So an extra four to six weeks helps develop lots of extra ripeness, and you get that high diurnal temperature range during September and October which locks-in flavours in the fruit.
“So, in Champagne they used to pick in October and now we’re picking in October, and that’s principally because of climate change.”
Rathfinny’s new sparkling wines, a 2015 Blanc de Noirs and a 2016 Rosé will be released in June 2019. Visit Rathfinny Wine Estate
© Press Association 2019