Rathfinny Wine Estate
Producing exceptional sparkling wines would not be possible without respecting the ecosystem we operate within.
What we know
Owners Mark & Sarah Driver have always put sustainability and environment at the heart of what we do at Rathfinny. Since establishing the Estate in 2010 on a working arable farm, we have strived to conserve and contribute to this beautiful part of the South Downs.
Producing exceptional sparkling wines would not be possible without respecting the ecosystem we operate within. Healthy soil is required to grow quality grapes. In order to maintain healthy soils, promoting biodiversity is key. The bacteria, fungi and earthworms we find in the soil exist within the same ecosystem as the larger mammals such as hares and badgers found on site. Interrupting established connections between species could be incredibly damaging to Rathfinny and the land we inhabit.
What we’re doing
In order to protect and preserve our local environment, we have worked with Natural England, the National Trust and the South Downs National Park to implement a programme of improvements to enhance wildlife habitats. Our main focus has been reviving and reclaiming areas of natural chalk grassland and creating wildlife corridors to improve biodiversity.
We have carried out biodiversity surveys, looking at areas with different ecosystem characteristics, including arable, hedgerow and chalk grassland. Of note, our solitary bee population has been studied by Sussex University. We also undertake butterfly transects in key areas and carry out a BTO breeding birds survey each year.
Our vine plantings – while a monoculture – differ to conventional arable land use. Planted in rows just over two meters apart, there is plenty of room for wildflowers and insects to inhabit. This is encouraged by infrequent mowing, allowing longer grasses and promoting wildlife corridors for insects. This, in turn, reduced the threat from pests, such as Grape Berry Moth and Brown Apple Moth. Without encouraging a diverse array of insect predators, crop-damaging population booms are increasingly likely.
What it’s worth
We have measured this impact though wider biodiversity surveys, looking at invertebrates and narrower surveys for solitary bees, butterflies, moths and worm counts. Mapping hare and badger sightings has also been important as we consider the presence of mammals at the top of the food chain a reliable indicator that those it feeds on are also present.
While walking among the vines, you can see colour from wildflowers peeking through long grasses throughout most of the year. You can also hear the buzz of insect life and hear skylarks singing in the air.
“Our continued conservation of local habitats at Rathfinny have been very positive for the estate. Staff take pride in the wildlife on show during estate tours, as well as individual ‘nature walks’ undertaken throughout the year. Both those visiting and tasting our wines are able to enjoy the benefits. One of the less demanding beneficial changes made that comes to mind is a more relaxed approach to mowing. As a result, we have achieved greater biodiversity amongst invertebrates, flora and topsoil species. Tractor milage was also decreased as a by-product, meaning less diesel use and therefore less carbon emissions and financial costs.”Mark & Sarah Driver Founders