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Rathfinny Wine Estate, East Sussex

With views of the sea to the front and hills at the back, this must be one of the most picturesque, if not windy vineyards in the country.  It’s been nearly 10 years since the first vines were planted and today the estate is home to over 230 acres of vines, creating Rathfinny’s world-class wines.

Aiming to place Sussex firmly on the map as the leading wine county in the UK, Rathfinny Wine Estate has set a high bar when it comes to looking after visitors with a gastro pub-style restaurant, tasting room, tours and vineyard walks alongside cosy accommodation in warm, light-filled barns. It’s hard to believe their first sparkling was only launched in 2018, this is a vineyard to applaud, not just for its wines but its pioneering approach to wine tourism.

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The wine

A winemaking team, headed up by ex-Plumpton lecturer, Tony Milanowski is dedicated to producing the finest sparkling wines from the Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Pinot Meunier grapes grown on the estate.  It’s all about low intervention winemaking here.  Made via the Traditional Method, grapes are whole bunch pressed and matured on the lees in bottle, resulting in four sparkling wines, a Blanc de Noirs, Blanc de Blancs, Rosé and Classic Cuvée.

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Wining & dining

The two restaurants at Rathfinny are headed up by the Estate Head Chef, Chris Bailey (previously at Michelin-starred The Black Rat). Look out for a range of contemporary British dishes on the menu, inspired by local suppliers, seasonal produce and the vineyard itself.

The Flint Barns Dining Room is more informal, reminiscent of a gastro pub (with the bonus of delicious Rathfinny wines), whilst the Michelin Plate Tasting Room inside the winery offers a fine dining option for lunches and evening meals and if you fancy more, there’s wonderful tasting menus with wine flights on Friday and Saturday evenings complete with breath-taking views of the vineyard and South Downs.

Weddings at Rathfinny are emblematic of the special occasions the team can create, and by only offering 10 dates each year, each feels exclusive and personalised.  Weddings usually include the exclusive hire of the Flint Barns accommodation and marquee, (and of course the wine comes directly from the Estate).

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Wake up and smell the vines

The Flint Barns, which are as unique as they are historic offer a very special holiday setting. With just 10 en-suite bedrooms, this is a stylish, boutique vineyard bed and breakfast. Home to the Flint Barns Dining Room, a beautiful courtyard plus a cosy lounge area complete with warmly glowing fireplaces, this is the perfect spot to snuggle up to and enjoy the taste of Sussex through its wine, get stuck into a book or go old school with a board game.

Lovingly restored, the 19th century barns are contemporary yet homely, each bedroom offering views of the vines or South Downs countryside. With single, double and family rooms, you can expect comfy bedding, indulgent bath products, local artworks and a sound sleep after a day exploring the vines and wines.

Out and about

Venturing out of the Barns, there’s tours and tastings, walks amongst the vines and out to the villages or beaches nearby.

The Cellar Door at Rathfinny is open year-round, its enthusiastic team providing insights into how the grapes are grown and the wine is produced on the Estate. The shop is open daily for drop-in tastings as well as seasonal events, and the Christmas Shopping event on 20th and 21st of November is one for the diary this year!

If you want to venture out, there are number of excellent dining spots in the area, including The Wingrove and The Star in Alfiston. This medieval village on the banks of the Cuckmere River is considered to be one of the most beautiful in the country. Here, time stands still with its lopsided timbered houses and pubs, 14th century church and one-way lanes. Meandering around Alfriston makes for a great afternoon, taking in its architecture, the shops, the pubs and gardens, culminating in afternoon tea at one of the tea houses in the village.

For ramblers, there are plenty of country walks from hill to dale and on to beach, the dramatic Seven Sisters cliffs are nearby and if you are feeling particularly active, the 100-mile-long footpath of the South Downs Way is just around the corner.

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Photo by Annie Spratt

Location

Found in an area rich in history, where the coast meets the countryside, Rathfinny Wine Estate is part of the South Downs National Park, an area of outstanding natural beauty in East Sussex.  Alfriston is within walking distance, and Charleston, the Bloomsbury Set’s country escape is only six miles away.

Accessible from the A27 from Brighton, two hours’ drive from London, the nearest train stations are Seaford and Berwick. 

The Bottom Line

Open all year round (except for when the Flint Barns are hired for private, exclusive use), a Standard Cosy Double Room starts from £95 per night (including breakfast).

There are various seasonal packages available during the year, such as the Rathfinny’s ‘Escape to Sussex’ package – heaven for gastronomes. Starting from £240 per couple and available from Wednesday to Saturday during the winter months, the package includes a glass of Classic Cuvée on arrival, an overnight stay at The Flint Barns, a winter tour and tasting, a three-course dinner at The Flint Barns Dining Room, plus breakfast the next day.

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The Flint Barns can be hired exclusively over Christmas and New Year on a self-catering basis – perfect for large families or a group of friends looking for an escape to the country over the festive period.

Rathfinny Wine Estate
Alfriston, East Sussex
BN26 5TU

rathfinnyestate.com

*Experiences, packages, prices and dining venues are correct at time of publishing, however, may change, advanced reservations are recommended.