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Rathfinny Vineyard Tours & Tasting (East Sussex)

Rathfinny vineyard East Sussex

On a gloriously hot sunny day, at the start of the grape growing season, I found myself on the slopes of the South Downs at Rathfinny vineyard just south of Alfriston in East Sussex.

Rathfinny Vineyard East Sussex

Rathfinny vineyard 

For a quiet corner of Sussex, there is a lot going on at Rathfinny. They are producing a range of award-winning wines, they have two restaurants and a Summer Kitchen, and from May to September they run summer tours and tastings.

Rathfinny vineyard restaurant East Sussex

The vines at Rathfinny are sublimely seductive. They sit in a slight dip in the South Downs, so the air is warm, and you can smell the sea. For their tour, you make your way to their impressive cellar door and tasting rooms and then head off into the vines, in their neat little rows against the rolling backdrop of the Downs.

Rathfinny vineyard East Sussex

The vineyard and winery tour 

It’s not an easy balance to achieve for the tour guide because any vineyard tour is likely to have a mix of people some of whom will know all about wine and some of whom will know very little (like me). But our guide hit exactly the right note.

Rathfinny vineyard tours

Rathfinny is 3 miles from the sea and is a 600 acre site with three-quarters of that under vine. It has a little micro-climate here with high humidity levels and our guide explains why they had to plant lines of trees to break the wind and protect the vines.

Rathfinny vineyard tours

She goes on to take us back through the history of the vineyard and the family who own and run it, and the first harvest which it’s hard to believe was only in 2014. She explains the different grape varieties grown here (Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier and Pinot Gris) and shows us how to identify the Meunier by looking at the vine leaves.

Rathfinny vineyard

She talks us through preparing the ground, the vine stock, the pruning, the veraison (ripening of the grapes), the harvest and some of the challenges they face. Some of this I knew, some I didn’t but I definitely felt a greater understanding and appreciation of Sussex wine as a result.

Rathfinny Vineyard East Sussex

Rathfinny is B Corp certified (B Corp companies are companies verified by B Lab to meet high standards of social and environmental performance, transparency, and accountability) and has a very comprehensive sustainability report available to read on their website. If sustainability matters to you, it’s well worth a read. They were also a driving force behind the achievement of ‘Sussex’ as a Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) for wine. This means the name ‘Sussex’ is protected for quality wines that are made in East and West Sussex. It’s the equivalent of the French Appellation d’Origine Protégée.

Rathfinny winery

Rathfinny wine tasting

After about 45 mins, we head to the winery and then to the tasting rooms. Now to the serious business of tasting. I have a limited palate and nose for wine and a tasting is a great way to improve these.

Rathfinny tours and tasting

We tried four Rathfinny wines, namely the still rosé 2020, the Classic Cuvée 2018, the Blanc de Blanc 2018 and the Blanc de Noirs 2018. Our guide talked us through what to expect and look out for, as well as the different blends and methods, levels of acidity, time spent on lees and dosage.

Rathfinny tasting rooms

The interesting part for me was being able to go back and taste the wines in comparison to one another and compare them and how they changed as they warmed up during the course of the tasting. And I challenge you not to want to take more than a few bottles home with you.

Rathfinny Wine Estate

A tour and tasting is definitely a great way to understand more about our new Sussex wine culture and some of the incredible wines we’re producing here. This tour is about 1 hr 45 mins in total and costs £27.50 per person.

If you’ve enjoyed this post about Rathfinny vineyard tours, you may also like:

Sussex Vineyard Experiences: Rathfinny

New Vineyard Kitchen at Tinwood, West Sussex

Pitts-Stop & Wine Flight at Kinsbrook Vineyard



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