Vine planting begins on Rathfinny Estate

Planting has begun in East Sussex on what is claimed will become England's largest vineyard.

A total of 700,000 vines covering 160ha will eventually make up the Rathfinny Estate, making it one of the largest single-site vineyards in Europe.

However, planting is being staged over eight years, with 20ha being established each year. The first year's planting - of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier and Riesling varieties - went in last week.

The site, between Lewes and Eastbourne, will eventually employ 30 full-time and 200 seasonal workers. It will focus on production of sparkling white wine, which will start to hit the shelves in 2016 or 2017.

The estate's owner, former hedge fund manager Mark Driver, said: "This marks the start of a journey for us to create a sparkling wine to rival the best on offer from across the Channel."

The estate manager, New Zealander Cameron Roucher, added: "You couldn't ask for a better location for growing sparkling wine grapes. The soil, climate and geography are all perfect."

Rathfinny is also funding the construction of a Wine Research Centre at nearby Plumpton College.

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