OK, so I might be a little biased, but I would say that Rathfinny Estate in East Sussex most definitely offers the best grape picking in the UK these days and it’s only going to get better. My 18 year old son and his girlfriend have just spent two weeks picking on their estate and they LOVED it and will definitely do it again. “It felt like a two week holiday that we were getting paid for” they said. At over £8 an hour, it’s not a bad way to get some money together for their gap year and they met a lot of lovely people from all walks of life. One couple flew in from Dubai for three weeks, using it as their alternative holiday to get away from the maddening crowds, but they are mostly employing locals. In 10 years they have more than doubled the area of planted vines, with a million planted in just the last two years. Thanks to the incredible summer we’ve had, they’ve got a bumper crop of delicious fruit.
They offer The Flint Barns in which to stay – far more than just a hostel. Really lovely accommodation and excellent “home from home” cooked food. It costs £24 a night for a room and their food, which is pretty amazing.
Mark and Sarah Driver, the owners invited a crowd of friends and family down on Saturday to pick for a few hours before giving us a delicious lunch. I’m pretty sure it must cost them more to do it that way, because despite the fact that we picked around 5 tonnes of grapes, the professional pickers do it twice as fast. They collected 150 tonnes of grapes in just the first week this year, which is as much as they picked for the whole of 2017 – this will make around 350,000 bottles, as against 150,000 last year.
We were picking Pinot Noir grapes on Saturday:-
MY grapes in the picking box:-
Sarah joining in:-
Sarah pointing out the wine press:-
Here is Mark Driver giving us a tour:-
Sniff test of the first premium picking:-
Showing us the delivery of the new oak barrels:-
My son’s photos – they were picking the chardonnay grapes:-
They will eventually have storage for 4 million bottles. It is a mind-blowing enterprise.