30-second interview: The Sussex vineyard founded by two City workers striving to produce top wines – Uber Turco News

Mark Driver, along with his wife Sarah, both former City workers, founded the family-run Rathfinny Estate, a 600 acre vineyard located in the chalky South Downs, between Brighton and Eastbourne.

What is the USP?

Our Estate in East Sussex sits on the same chalk belt of land as Champagne, so we share a semi-continental climate that is perfect for growing high quality sparkling wine grapes. We’re in the process of making some of the best wines in the world, while at the same time creating a sustainable tourist destination and local jobs.

Rathfinny is a family-owned wine Estate, producing premium Sussex sparkling wines from single-site vineyard located in the beautiful, chalky, South Downs, between Brighton and Eastbourne. All our wines are made in the ‘traditional method’, where the bubbles are created by a secondary fermentation that takes place inside the bottle, and all our wines are vintage wines, meaning that the grapes come from the year on the bottle.

How did the brand come about?

Rathfinny was the name of the farm that we bought in 2010. Rath is a Celtic word meaning an enclosure or fort and the land was originally owned by an Irishman Mr H.L Finny in the 1850s. The shield on our branding is derived from the East Sussex shield and features six white grapes that show the chalky soils that are perfect for growing sparkling wine grapes. A lot of our branding speaks to our sense of place.

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Did you take on investment?

We are lucky enough to be self-financed so bought the Rathfinny Farm and have now planted over 230acres of the land under vines. We’ve also built all the infrastructure needed to make our wines on-site. This Includes a state-of-the-art RIBA nominated Winery and a temperature controlled Cellar, that can hold four million bottles of wine, allowing our wine to age in bottle on the yeast lees.

What are your tips to others looking to break into the industry?

Find your market for your wines before you invest in a vineyard or winery. You plant a vineyard for the next generation, so you need to have patience and take a very long view on the investment. You must always focus on quality as fancy packaging and curiosity can only sell the first bottle, it’s the quality of the wine that gets people to choose your wines time after time.

What does the future hold?

Sustainability has been in our DNA from the very beginning, and we are currently in the process of being B-Corp certified. We used many locally sourced materials in our buildings, including flint and oak. We’re proud that we are self-sufficient in water, and treat all our wastewater on site. We have a small 50kwh solar farm and we’re about to install a much larger 504kwh solar farm consisting of over 1200 PV panels, which will get us closer to our aim of being carbon neutral by 2030. We’ve also developed a local labour force, training people in many of the skills needed in the vineyard and across the Estate.

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