BL17 FINAL - Page 54



ALL THAT
SPARKLES
Business is booming for
makers of English sparkling
wines. Ed Cumming heads
to the South Downs to visit
one of the nascent industry’s
most exciting prospects,
fizzing with ideas
O
n a sunny afternoon in September, Mark
Driver is surveying his kingdom – the
Rathfinny estate: 200 acres of gentle slope
sheltered from the southwesterlies coming
off the English Channel by a ridge of the
South Downs. You could not conjure a more idyllic scene,
or one better suited to growing wine. The sea breezes
help lift disease from the plants. Running down the hill,
the vines stand in straight rows, not quite ready for
harvest. The 2019 crop, Driver says, will be some 20 per
cent up on 2018, which was double that of 2017 thanks to
last year’s glorious summer.
We taste the grapes. There’s earthy Chardonnay; Pinot
Noir already brimming with fruit. The soil is free-draining
silty clay, above a chalk seam that runs from Wiltshire
down under the Channel and through northern France to
Champagne, whose wines Driver has in his crosshairs.
“It’s just the perfect spot for growing grapes,” he says.
“It’s south facing, sheltered from the wind, and is a little
bit dryer, warmer, and sunnier than other parts of the UK.
If we become the English Krug, we’ll be doing okay,” he
says, looking at the elegant visitor centre, where a crowd is
assembling for tastings and lunches with a vineyard view.
Driver’s calm and genial manner belies an ambition that
is characteristic of a new confidence in English sparkling
54
BOISDALELIFE .COM
AUTUMN 2019
ISSUE 17





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