Business Secretary Vince Cable MP officially opened the UK’s largest winery in Alfriston on Friday, May 16.
Mark Driver, founder and owner of the Rathfinny Estate, said, “It is particularly fitting to have the Rt Hon Dr Vince Cable MP to open the Rathfinny Winery as he has been such a loyal supporter of our project. Mr Cable has long been an advocate for the English wine industry.”
Vince Cable told guests he planned to give a bottle of Rathfinny sparkling wine to his French counterpart once the first vintage is ready. And he commended the winery for serving as an inspiration to other innovative new British businesses. “Britain should be proud of the strides made in the production of quality food and drink products.”
Former hedge fund manager Mark and his wife, solicitor and university lecturer Sarah Driver, acquired the 400-acre Rathfinny Farm on the South Downs in 2010. The first 50 acres of vines were planted in March 2012 when Mark and his team invited every Alfriston resident to ‘own’ a named vine with a personalised tag attached to the stem.
Since then the project has grown with extra acreage under vines, the opening of the Cellar Door and Heritage Centre in Alfriston’s Gun Room in December 2013 and now the winery.
The business will employ around 30 full time staff and a further 200 during the harvest and pruning seasons. Flint barns are being restored to provide accommodation and a resource for special interest and education groups visiting the South Downs National Park. The Rathfinny Trail is also being developed in conjunction with the Park and the National Trust.
The winery building designed by Martin Swatton has been shortlisted for a RIBA architectural award. Friday’s guests, including Mr Cable, enjoyed a tour of the estate and winery along with lunch in the grand tasting room overlooking the vineyard.