The Relais’ Guests Hear Sparkling Success Story of Rathfinny Wines

The owners of Rathfinny Wines, Sarah and Mark Driver were hosts for the The Salon at The Relais hotel’s last social soiree of the year sharing their story of how they brought the land for vineyard through to being the first grower-producer of sparkling wine in the world to achieve the B Corp accolade whilst sharing four of their vintage wines.

Mark said, “I decided I wanted to stop working in the city and whilst looking at Uni courses for my daughter I came across a 2 year viticulture course.  We did some market research at a birthday dinner with some friends and tasted 6 English sparkling wines and 6 Champagnes and the sparkling wines came out on top.  It was whilst we were on holiday that the land agent found a piece of land (600 acres) in the South Downs of Sussex and we sent off some soil to be tested and it came back as a perfect site in 2010.”

The vineyard only produces vintage sparkling wine from grapes from their own land. Mark and Sarah talked about looking after the vines, harvesting at the right time and the wine-making process giving their views on the amount of sugar (dosage) they put into their wines (much lower than others),  Their wine is only sold direct or through wine merchants.  Mark commented, “We had a lot of pressure from Waitrose particularly during Covid to be stocked in their stores.  It was hard but we believe we made the right decision.”

Rathfinny’s first 50 acres of vines were planted in 2012 with three principal grape varieties – Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Meunier as well as a small amount of Pinot Gris.  They produced 11,000 bottles in their first year (2017) to now producing 300,000 bottles per year.

B Corp status, is the gold standard for ethical and sustainable business practices, verified to high standards of social and environmental performance, transparency and accountability.  They have also helped obtain a Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) for Sussex wines working with 18 wine producers and becoming the first wine region in the UK.

The guests enjoyed 2018 Classic Cuvee, Blanc de Blanc, Rosé and Blanc de Noir 2019.  Mark described the wines and suggested foods that they are good to be paired with.  Our personal favourite was the Rosé .

Mark said that the wines could be kept for 2-3 years however they were good to enjoy now saying, “We’ve already done the aging for you.” He also said that you should store sparkling wines upright unlike normal wine as it keeps the pressure against the cork.

The Relais is hosting two more Christmas events, Christmas Carols with the Aliquando Chamber Choir on 22 December (7pm) and Cocktails and Classics with local singer Ceri Ann Gregory on 23 December (8pm).  Full details can be found on the Calendar of Events at  


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