Celebrate English Wine Week 2021: Sip Rathfinny Sussex Sparkling wines at your summer parties and picnics.
Vines have been cultivated across England since Roman times, with the Domesday Book referring to Southern English vineyards as early as the 11th century.
There are now more than 700 vineyards across England and Wales, backed by £6 million of government investment to develop modern methods and technology to protect the countryside and land. The climate complements the growth of slow-ripening grapes giving them their unique, delicate flavour.
Today, sparkling wine makes up to 72% of all wine produced in the UK and is served regularly at Royal state dinners and government receptions. In the last couple of years, England has become one of the fastest expanding wine regions in the world and continues to gain international acclaim for fine quality.
English Wine Week takes place from the 19th-27th June 2021, so the perfect time to support local vineyards and try something different.
Primarily made with the same grapes as Champagne (chardonnay, pinot noir and pinot meunier), English sparkling wine is also produced in the “traditional method”, so home-grown fizz can be as good as the famous French brands. A few champagne houses, such as Taittinger, have been buying prime vineyards in the UK due to suitable climate and terrain.
The Rathfinny Wine Estate in East Sussex was founded in 2010 by Mark and Sarah Driver taking on the challenge to produce their own brand of fine sparkling wine. It occupies the main part of Cradle Valley just three miles from the sea, near Alfriston village.
After eighteen months of preparation Rathfinny planted the first 60,000 vines on a 50 acres site in April 2012 and now has 375,000 vines over 226 acres. Further development will continue over the next few years with an environmentally friendly, sustainable ethos.
The principal grapes varieties – Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier – have been planted for the Sussex Sparkling Wine, with a few blocks of Pinot Blanc and Pinot Gris for their Cradle Valley Still wine. Sussex has limestone chalk soils, resulting in high-quality grapes similarly found in the area of Champagne, France. Also, the cool climate preserves the acidity needed to make quality sparkling wine. With the sea in such close proximity any frost risk is well mitigated while a breeze keep the fruit ventilated. Grapes are picked in late October for the perfect, very ripe, healthy fruit.
Rathfinny Estate has a knowledgeable team of staff with international experience: Cameron Roucher from New Zealand is the Estate Manager, and Jonathan Médard, is a French winemaker from Épernay, who has also worked in California. They both agree that this Vineyard has the perfect location, soil and climate to produce world class sparkling wines.
The first Still wine was released in 2015 under the Cradle Valley label, and the inaugural Sussex Sparkling, Blanc de Blancs launched June 2018. Summer 2020 unveiled an exciting full range of Classic Cuvée, Blanc de Blancs, Blanc de Noirs and Rosé Brut.
“We produce small amounts of still wine, but we’re predominately a sparkling wine producer. High quality ‘Sussex’ Sparkling wine requires at least three years to mature in the bottle to develop all those complex flavours, so I’ve had to learn to be patient, but we’re very proud of our first sparkling wines.”
Mark Driver, co-owner of Rathfinny Estate
Rathfinny Sussex Sparkling has received glowing praise from wine critics including Will Lyons of The Sunday Times describing Rathfinny’s Blanc de Noirs as “decadent and world-class.”
Recently released, Rathfinny Blanc de Blancs Brut 2017 is the third vintage of Sussex Sparkling with a limited production of only 9,333 bottles, made from 100% Chardonnay and aged for 36-months on the lees. 12% ABV.
What Rathfinny say:
A luminous, flaxen-gold hue leads to a heady nose of ripe papaya and creamy lemon balm, a refined beading of white peach and fennel pollen with a silken, yuzu zest finish.
This refined sparkling wine meshes sublimely with the sweet delicacy of lobster, the velvet-texture of a goat’s cheese and fig tartlet or pairs perfectly with oysters.
THE TASTE TEST
Colour – translucent with a pale gold shimmer.
Time to serve: the sparkling effervescence is lively, but this settles quickly with delicate bubbles rising to the surface.
Aroma: well-balanced, fresh, with the fragrance of crisp apple and citrus.
Flavour: an enticing basket of peach, apricot and apple fruitiness with earthy herbal tones; the ripe, tart, juicy chardonnay grapes is to the fore with lingering fresh zesty lemon and smooth honey tones. Underlying a soft subtle sweetness, a hint of buttery toasted brioche gives a delicately dry finish on the palate.
Serve well chilled as an aperitif with canapés and this signature English fizz is just perfect for celebrations.
Rathfinny Blanc de Blancs is light in texture and perfect to complement seafood – smoked salmon, tuna nicoise, grilled lobster with garlic butter and oysters.
The establishment of a Sussex wine PDO (Protected Designation of Origin) ensures that Sussex wines have provenance and quality and will continue to be considered amongst the very best in the world.
When at full capacity, the Rathvinny aims to produce nearly eighty thousand cases of Sussex Sparkling wine per annum, making Rathfinny one of England’s most significant wine producers.
“Our ambition is that in twenty years’ time you will walk into a bar or restaurant in New York or Beijing and you’ll be asked, ‘would you like a glass of Champagne or a delicious glass of Sussex, I can recommend the Rathfinny.”
As well as a wine producer, the Estate is a popular destination for visitors, walkers and food and wine enthusiasts. Working with Natural England, National Trust and South Downs National Park, a programme of improvements has enhanced the local habitat to encourage wildlife and The ‘Rathfinny Trail’ allows the public access to parts of the Wine Estate.
Visit Rathfinny Estate for wining, dining and short break experiences.
Book a tour to learn all about how the harvested grapes are crafted into sparkling wines, concluding with a tasting.
Rathfinny Picnic Hampers for gourmet alfresco feasts of seasonal, locally sourced good food complemented by chilled Rathfinny Sussex wines. https://rathfinnyestate.com/summer-al-fresco-dining/
The Tasting Room with scenic views overlooking the Vineyard and South Downs, serves a menu of modern British cuisine and awarded a Michelin Plate in 2020. Head Chef Chris Bailey has worked in London and Spain, receiving a Michelin Star at The Black Rat, Winchester and now at Rathfinny, he works closely with local farmers and suppliers for seasonal quality produce.
The Tasting Room is open for Lunch, Wednesday – Sunday, 12 – 3pm, and a Tasting Menu Dinner, Friday and Saturday, 6.30 – 8.30pm, with the option of a Sussex wine flight.
The Balcony is also open for impromptu walk-ins to enjoy wine and nibbles overlooking the Vineyard.
Stay, wine and dine at Flint Barns
The stunning landscape of the South Downs, Sussex is ideal for a relaxing getaway staying at Flint Barns in the heart of the Wine Estate. Summer weekend and short break experiences are very popular and selling out fast due to the rush to book UK Staycations in 2021.
‘Tour and Tasting Package’ from £229.50 for two guests includes an overnight stay, tour and tasting, Vineyard picnic lunch, bottle of Classic Cuvée sparkling wine and breakfast.
‘Dine and Unwind Package’ from £200 for two guests, which includes bed and breakfast, tea, homemade cake with a glass of Classic Cuvée; three-course dinner at the Flint Barns Dining Room and breakfast.
Flint Barns Dining Room serves simple, tasty gastropub dishes, open to the public from Wednesday to Saturday. Breakfast for residents only.
Guest reviews of Flint Barns
‘The most wonderful all round staycation experience. The food and wine were fabulous. The accommodation was excellent, great value for money. Viva Team Rathfinny!’
‘I can’t recommend Flint Barns highly enough – we had a wonderful few days of delicious food, stunning countryside, excellent service and first class accommodation.’
Check out the range of Sussex Sparkling: Classic Cuvée, 2016, Blanc de Blancs, 2016 & 2017 Blanc de Noir 2016, and Rosé Brut. 2016. By the bottle and choice of Signature, classic, portfolio and vintage cases – the perfect gift for friends and family. Also Cradle Valley Still wine and other food and drink.
Rathfinny wines can be purchased from various retails including Harvey Nichols, Lea and Sandeman, DBM Wines and Rathfinny online shop.
The Wine Estate Cellar Door shop, is open daily, 10am-5pm. Click and collect service too : shop.rathfinnyestate.com
Happy English Wine Week!
Rathfinny Wine Estate
Alfriston, East Sussex, BN26 5TU
Scottish Ballet on Film: two new short, sharply-focussed intimate digital dance works – view this month on line
In 1982, International Dance Day was first celebrated marking the birthday of Jean-Georges Noverre (1727-1810), the creator of modern ballet. Each year, the 29th April is the day to encourage the cultural participation and education through dance events and festivals all over the world.
While the theatres remain closed, Scottish Ballet has not stored away the pointe or leotards in the wardrobe but during the past year, the dancers and creative team have been inspired to produce a series of inspiring new ballet films to view on line. At Christmas time, ‘The Secret Theatre’ was a magical festive treat for all ages.
To commemorate International Dance Day 2021, Scottish Ballet presents the world premiere of Dive choreographed by Sophie Laplane with James Bonas and Odyssey by SB soloist Nicholas Shoesmith.
Sophie Laplane was born in Paris and trained at The Conservatoire National Supérieur de Paris then joined Scottish Ballet in 2004 as a dancer until 2017 when she became Scottish Ballet’s Choreographer in Residence.
Dive is inspired by the French artist Yves Klein, whose controversial 1960s Anthropometry Blue Period series featured the body shapes of naked women smeared in his trademark IKB paint, imprinted on giant canvases.
From Schubert’s slow, solo piano chords, we see a ghostly figure lost in a frozen white Arctic landscape until, with an explosive blast of heavy metal, the scene is transformed into a vibrant shade of aquamarine.
This is a dreamscape fantasy world, in which dancers parade like a collection of moving statues, slide and skate over the icy ground and perform the Bossanova and Samba with sassy style. Unlike a stage performance, through the magic and illusion of film, there’s fast-paced scene shifting, frames freeze and time stands still.
Yves Klein’s abstract expressionistic conceptual art is vividly captured with a vivacious sense of freedom, surreal humour and bold painterly palette; cool choreography and creative vision to the final splash in this short, sharp, 12 minute movie.
Born in the UK, Nicholas Shoesmith trained at The Australian Ballet School and joined Scottish Ballet in 2012, promoted to Soloist in 2016. He was nominated in the National Dance Awards 2019 for his role as John Proctor in The Crucible.
Odyssey is an apt name for Shoesmith’s new work, which immerses the viewer into the interactive combat of video games. With a strident electronic sound track by Craven Faults and Squarepusher and strobe lighting, follow our heroic gamer as he dons his 3D headset to be teleported from the backstage of a theatre to the surreal world of Outer Space for close encounters of the third kind.
In the shadowy darkness, a swirling tribal dance ritual by aggressive, arm-whipping creatures, strange aliens in slinky, skin tight, black jumpsuits and helmet-headed beings from Saturn, Venus and Mars.
If you are a fan of such epic Sci Fi games such as Mass Effect, Halo, Portal et. al., this balletic tribute to virtual reality gaming will illustrate the intimate, dramatic experience through modern dance.
Scottish Ballet on Film
These two short, fresh, feisty digital dance works can be viewed on line as part of Scottish Ballet’s membership programme and available to watch until 31 May 2021.
To become a free member and to book complimentary tickets visit: https://www.scottishballet.co.uk
Experience the true taste of Catalonia with Cava and tasty tapas from Clos Montblanc and Saporista.
This is a most timely, seasonal appetising story as we look forward to social gatherings with family and friends over the summer.
The family story behind the speciality food store, Saporista is like plot of a romantic movie. Lance Corporal George Titchmarsh, while serving in Italy during World War 2, fell in love with his dream girl, Amelia Chiappella and the blossoming of their British / Italian partnership carries on today through their grandson.
With this Italian heritage in his blood, Sam Titchmarsh and his wife Liz, who had lived in Venice for a while as a European history student, share a passion for its superlative cuisine and culture. After bringing back samples of their favourite local food and drink from a holiday in Tuscany the year before, they found that these were not available to purchase here in the UK.
And so they founded an online European Deli, Saporista in 2020, working with a team of foodie scouts based across Italy, France and Spain, who source quality, artisan produce – the brand name comes from the Italian word ‘Sapore’ meaning ‘taste’ or ‘flavour’.
The countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea, home to sunshine, sea and fresh local food, holds the key to good health. The typical daily diet is based around seasonal vegetables, fruit, beans, nuts, olives, olive oil, grains, cheese, fish – especially salmon and oily fish – and white meat.
Based on international academic research, in 2021 the Mediterranean diet was named the healthiest in the world (for four years running), due to its prevention of cardiovascular disease and for promoting longevity.
Eating well is all part of traditional family life and culture, very much at the heart of socialising over a refreshing drink in the early evening. It’s fascinating to know that the Latin word ‘Aperire’ means ‘to open’, giving the root of the Italian and Spanish word ‘aperitivo’ and the French word ‘aperitif,’ – an alcoholic tipple to stimulate the taste buds before dinner.
In Italy, popular Aperitivo drinks might be a Negroni or ice-cold Prosecco. In Spain, sparkling wine too – Cava – served with light tapas and appetisers. Essential nourishment indeed, as the Spanish prefer a late dinner after 9 or 10pm.
In order to learn all about Spanish Cava, Saporista organised an online masterclass, broadcast live from the 300 year old Clos Montblanc winery, at Conca de Barbera near Barcelona. Five generations of the family have developed their vine-growing expertise here, growing fifteen grape varieties to produce a diverse range of still and sparkling wines.
From the earth, the fruit, From the fruit, Clos Montblanc
Paloma from Clos Montblanc Winery and Nika from Wine Alphabet gave a most inspiring and entertaining presentation as viewers joined in the tasting at home with their choice of Spanish nibbles to create a relaxing and sociable Aperitivo experience.
First of all, we learn that this region of Spain, Catalonia, is the land of Cava. 95% of this sparkling wine is produced here, due to the fertile terrain where the vineyard terraces are located between the forested Pyrenees and the coastline. The three Spanish grapes that are typically used in Cava production are Macabeu, Xarel -lo and Paralleda, to create a fruity sparkling wine, less sweet than Prosecco.
Cava is, in fact, totally different to Prosecco as it is made in the Champagne method with the second fermentation taking place in the bottle. The wine-making skills are all about the perfect balance of acidity, effervescence, expressive floral-fruit flavour and delicate texture.
Cava is produced with different superior Reserva styles and according to sweetness, Brut Nature, Extra Brut and sweet dessert Cava.
The first Cava to be tasted and tested is the Clos Montblanc Brut Premium in a glamorously artistic silver bottle. This is made in in the traditional method from the blending of the best Macabeu and Parellada grapes with a minimum ageing between 12 and 18 months in the bottle. 11.5% ABV.
It is recommended to serve in a flute glass to allow the bubbles to rise up. The aroma is described by Paloma and Nika as fresh and floral, crisp notes of apple and pear on the palate, with a refreshing clean finish.
My partner and I also detected stone fruit flavours, peach and apricot; it’s delectably light, crisp, dry, biscuity, a hint of almonds with a complex character. A cool, classy Spanish champagne indeed.
Cava is often served in Spain with salty olives and Saporista supplies ‘Aceitunas rellans de anchoa,’ – Ollives stuffed with anchovies, which are utterly delicious, not as salty as one might expect and the texture is like a soft mousse. Try also with a glass of sherry or vermouth rosso and soda. Also fat juicy olives from Sicily, precisely labelled to eat at this time of day: Olive Verdi dei Sicilia per Aperitivo.
As Almond trees are endemic to Catalonia, Roasted Almonds are popular too. Potato crisps such as Apple Cider Vinegar flavoured are a good match as the dry acidity of the sparkling wine cuts through the oily fried texture.
For Spanish cocktail hour, Botularium’s ‘Crema de Alcachofa’ (Artichoke cream) is spread on toast or crackers and as a dip for vegetable crudités. Artichokes, often pickled, are very much part of the healthy Mediterranean diet.
This Cava Brut Premium would also complement sushi, shellfish, rice dishes and pasta for lunch or dinner.
There’s nothing more decadent than a cheeky Bucks Fizz – or Mimosa – for Brunch and a small 25 ml measure in a flute glass was topped up with orange juice. Wow!. This is terrific – the fizz and flavour sings through which shows the quality of the Cava and classic grape variety.
Next is the Clos Montblanc Cava Rosé which is a soft pink shade of cherry blossom This has fine bubbles and made from 100% Trepat grapes – the Pinot Noir of Catalonia. (11.5% ABV), with the fragrance and taste of fresh strawberries, perfect for summer picnics.
As this Cava Rosé is made from red grapes, the best food pairing is with other red fruits, such as tomato and red pepper. Another Catalonian delicacy is Cherry Peppers stuffed with cheese (‘Pimiento cherry relleno de queso’) – these are proper canapés, just the right size to pop in the mouth in one go, as they are so soft and squidgy. Be warned, these are extremely moreish and rather filling which can turn Aperitivo-time into a light supper.
The earthy flavour of Goat’s Cheese also partners pink fizz well too and for those with a sweet tooth, this Cava is highly recommended to sip with chocolate desserts, cake and fruit salad.
For a sparkling summer, why not experience a Catalonian party – a few bottles of Clos Montblanc Cava Brut and Cava Rosé with a selection of these delicious and healthy tapas.
Saporista offers an online pan-European Delicatessen for an appetising choice of speciality food and drinks with the tag line, ‘A Taste for All Occasions’. Serving tomatoes, olives, cheese, nuts and dips in the Mediterranean mode, mood and manner transform a simple snack into a sophisticated party.
Check out the suggestions for Cava and Nibbles, Delicious Drinks and Easy Peasy Picnics, perfect for all occasions, lazy lunches, cocktail time and BBQs with family and friends. Afternoon Tea sweet treats too.
The new Easy Italian Meal Kits contains a selection of pasta, sauces, pesto, antipasti dishes, bruschetta toppings, Parmigiano Reggiano – eat, drink and dream of sitting under the Tuscan sun!.
Whether your choice is Sherry, Cava, Kir Royale, Prosecco or Negroni at Aperitivo time, raise your glass with the toast, À votre Santé, Salud, or Saluti. Good Health indeed.
The great news is that you can embrace the cool, cultural style and delicious taste of Mediterranean cuisine here in the UK, through Saporista.
Saporista – your one stop, on line shop for home dining, party food, personal gifts and corporate hospitality delivered in attractive, eco-friendly cardboard box hampers. Promotional Virtual Events and Masterclass tastings.
Read all about it here
Join Wine Utopia (and Kylie) in the Pink Drink revolution: refreshing Rosé for a relaxing, rosy summer
We have ambled through April and now marched into May with the scent of pink cherry blossom wafting in the air.
Yes, pink is the colour of the season from fashion to fizz. Kylie Minogue has launched her new Sparkling Rosé Prosecco – the latest addition to her eponymous wine collection. (BTW, Kylie’s Zoom name is ‘Wine o’clock” – my kinda lady.)
From the ancient Roman Spring flower festival of Floralia and the Celtic Beltane which marks a time of rebirth of nature and fertility, May Day is widely celebrated by dancing around the floral Maypole, music and revelry.
The Germans raise a toast with a glass of Maiwein, an aromatic wine flavoured with sweet woodruff and in Finland, it’s Sima, a version of Mead made from fermented honey.
For a pink alternative to Maiwein, ‘Wine Utopia’ is promoting an enticing selection of Rosè wines to enjoy as we plan summer picnics and barbecues with family and friends again this summer.
If you usually choose between white and red, ring the changes as this is now the season to try something half way between.
As the eminent wine expert Hugh Johnson explains, “ Pink wines are made as though they were going to be red until the winemakers suddenly change their mind. … a white wine of red grapes, stained with the skins.”
Like an artist’s palette, Rosè can vary from the palest, off-white shade known as Vin Gris, (or in California as ‘blush’), a soft camisole pink and a light onion-skin amber colour, depending on the maceration time with the red grape skins.
From a perfect Pinot Noir to an organic Provençal, Wine Utopia has selected their favourite French Rosé wines from Pays D’Oc, Languedoc and Provence renowned for excellent terroirs to produce speciality grape varieties.
Lieux Perdus Pinot Noir Rosé, Pays D’Oc
Pays d’Oc wines cover the entire Languedoc-Roussillon area and quality is a key factor to achieve this identification as each of the certified wines is tasted by a panel to be selected. The charming name Lieux Perdus translates as ‘Lost Places’ and this glorious beach scene on the label expresses a sense of escapism and a feeling of being free-spirited. Just what we need post lockdown!
This delicate Rosé is made using Pinot Noir grapes gently pressed to extract the colour without tannin and cool vinified to capture all the delicate aromatics and flavours. A shade of pretty pink with a light, dry texture and taste yet packed full of creamy red fruit.
This Rosé is ideal with appetisers, salads, pasta and seafood – and just imagine sitting in the sunshine overlooking a sandy beach in the South of France.
Château Gairoird Rosé, Côtes de Provence
Château Gairoird produces organic wines on its 45 hectare Domaine halfway between Marseille and Saint-Tropez in the region of Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur. Here Olivier Pierrefeu grows numerous cépages including Grenache, Cinsault, Rolle, Syrah and Tibouren, perfect for classic Provence rosé. Harvested by night to make this Rosé de presse, the juice is cool-fermented for a few weeks in stainless steel tanks.
A classic, gastronomic Provence rosé, deep salmon pink with fresh aromas of grapefruit, peach, strawberry and floral notes which burst on the palate. Organic, vegan and low calorie so ideal for a healthy diet.! Well-suited to a range of dishes – crab, tuna tartare, sushi, linguine with tomato and olive sauce. In Provence it may be served with bouillabaisse fish stew and also complements a creamy goat cheese.
Domaine d’Hondrat Cuvée Elle & Lui Rosé, Languedoc
The historic Domaine d’Hondrat is situated in the heart of Bassin de Thau in Languedoc-Roussillon. Romain Vigroux, the owner, always recalls his great-grandfather’s words, “Wine is a matter of Tradition and Family through passion.” This is reflected in the beautifully designed bottle with a glass stopper, rather like a classic French designer fragrance and the name “Elle & Lui” (“she and him”) expresses the love shared between a couple.
This elegant wine is made of 60% Grenache Gris and 40% Mourvédre grapes. A pale pink colour with silvery glints, there are subtle aromas of white fruits and tangerine, well balanced by a fresh citrusy tang on the finish. A delicious match with seafood, pasta, white meats and cheese or simply sip on its own.
Pasquiers Grenache Cinsault Rose 2019, Languedoc
As Wine Utopia say:
‘Our best selling Rosé – very pale pink, dry and delicate on the palate, with subtle aromas of wild strawberries and spice. The ultimate refreshing summer quaffer!’
The key to producing the best Rosé is based on individual and unique ‘batches’ – Winemaker-in-chief, Eric Monnin tastes the wines from each vat after fermentation of the Grenache and Cinsault grapes to select the perfectly crafted blends in this classic Rosé de presse.
I was delighted to have the opportunity to taste this Pays d’Oc quality wine:
First a whiff of fragrant blossom, then a fresh flavour of ripe melon and soft red berries with underlying spice and a lingering dry finish. Just like strawberries can be served with a sprinkle of black pepper or dash of Balsamic vinegar, this blend of juicy sweet fruits with a sharp tang creates a delicately smooth, well rounded character. This is indeed so quaffable.!
Like most Rosé wines, simply serve well chilled with appetisers and also, of course, with Mediterranean cuisine – grilled vegetables, risotto, chicken salad, shellfish, grilled salmon as well as perhaps with strawberry and raspberry desserts.
So, be fashionably ‘in the pink’ this summer, by cracking open a few refreshingly light and fruity Rosé wines – the taste of the summer sun in a glass …..wherever you may be.
Founded in 2011, Wine Utopia is an independent wine merchant in Hampshire, England.
Their motto is “to share and highlight a variety of unique wines from vineyards around the world to help you curate a wine rack for your every mood or occasion.”
The business has since developed a fine reputation for their staff who offer a personal, informed and attentive service. Wines by the bottle and 6 and 12 bottle cases with specially selected collections and seasonal offers.
Take a look at the selection of Rosé and a diverse choice of other international wines, beers and spirits.
As hospitality opens up again there will be special events, tastings and winemaker dinners.
Wine Utopia has two stores located on the High Street, Stockbridge, Hampshire and London Road, Kings Worthy, Winchester as well as their on line shop for home delivery.
What their happy customers say:
Great wine and absolutely fantastic service both in shop and online. I would recommend any wine lover give them a try.
Excellent service and swift delivery of my first order today.
Great selection and knowledgeable and friendly staff
The Wine Utopia Club
Starting from only £30 per month, receive a box of personally selected wines every two or three months. Perfect for gifts too. Exclusive WU Club perks and high-quality wines from independent growers around the world. Members only Tasting events.