Built in the 1860’s ‘Flint Barns’ was the original farmhouse for the Rathfinny Farm but had been left derelict after being decimated by the storm of 1987. It has now been transformed into the world’s poshest youth hostel by the UK’s most impressive new wine maker, Mark Driver.
Once an uber successful hedge fund manager, Driver left the world of finance in 2009 and, with his wife Sarah, decided it was time to pursue his dreams of making a great sparkling wine. Whilst many people might have been content with the odd row of vines in their back garden, Driver decided on a rather different approach. He enrolled on a viticulture course at Brighton University and in 2010 set about finding the ultimate location to establish a Vineyard capable of creating the finest sparkling wine in the UK and one of the best in the world. Eventually they found a 600 acre farm in the South Downs which seemed to have perfect conditions and had long been known locally as ‘the secret valley’. The winning combination of sunshine, rainfall, ideal temperatures and free draining chalky soil were all to be found at Rathfinny and are similar conditions to those found in the Champagne region. Incredibly, the intention at Rathfinny is to have 160 hectares (400 acres) of vines planted by 2020, eventually producing over a million bottles a year. This is a lot, by the way.
The Driver’s have put together a crack team of wine experts to help them achieve their goal including wine maker Jonathan Medard who trained in the wineries of Chateau Mouton Rothschild, Champagne Louis Roederer, Moët & Chandon and Champagne Boizel as well as 10 successful years making world class wines in California.
The extraordinarily impressive, RIBA nominated Winery sits in the heart of the estate and houses state of the art wine making and bottling apparatus and all of the buildings on the Estate have been built with locally sourced materials, using sustainable technologies such as photovoltaic cells and wastewater recycling.
The Flint Barns is nestled perfectly in a South Down’s Valley, surrounded by rows and rows of vines. It’s location is simply breathtaking.
After a fascinating tour of the Estate, it soon become clear that nothing here is done in half measures, and this is very evident when it comes to the accommodation. Every fixture and fitting is of the highest standard, every painting beautifully framed, every sofa and chair thoughtfully chosen. The Driver’s have sympathetically restored the old Barn into a stylish home away from home, built to accommodate seasonal workers and wine tourism, but which is now becoming a popular destination for romantic weekenders, family gatherings, birthday celebrations, educational trips, weddings and private parties. Escape the noise and smog of the City, and take a blissful weekend away at the beautiful Rathfinny Estate where you will experience the best that East Sussex country life has to offer, set in one of the most astonishing Vineyards this country has ever seen. I predict that in just a few short years from now, the word ‘Rathfinny’ will be on everyone’s lips.