Introducing my absolute favourite English sparkling wine, the Rathfinny Blanc de Noirs, Vintage 2016, £42.99 per bottle – a wine that looks set to become one of this country’s true icons. And this, their second only vintage! Who, you might well ask, is the genius behind it? The answer, in short, is Mark and Sarah Driver, former hedge fund manager and solicitor, respectively. They had a dream, and employed both a Champagne winemaker, and a Kiwi viticulturist, to help them bring it to fruition. Rathfinny Wine Estate`s first plantings were in 2012, expanding quickly to around 90 hectares of vines on Sussex`s South Downs, stretching roughly between Brighton and Eastbourne. The plan is to grow it to 140 hectares, making it one of England`s most significant vineyards. Quality wine production is their paramount aim, growing Champagne grapes on chalk, with their Blanc de Noir leading the march. Produced from 65% Pinot Noir and 35% Pinot Meunier grapes, it is made in the manner of Champagne, using the traditional bottle method of fermentation with 36 months maturation on the lees. The date the 2016 vintage was disgorged was timely, just before Covid hit, on 23.01.2020. This is the moment the lees were ejected, having accumulated in the neck of the bottles. The bottles were subsequently topped up with a 3g/l sweet wine liqueur called `Dosage` and the Champagne cork stoppered. After a further resting period, the wine now limpid and the bubbles returned to saturation, labelling and boxing-up were carried out, and the Sussex sparkling wine was ready for release. We opened a bottle last weekend. It is the most beautiful golden-rose colour, its effervescence a steady stream of tiny bubbles. Aromas and flavours revealed themselves gradually in the glass, of strawberry, raspberry, red apple, pink grapefruit, and toasted almonds. Oh joy! We had it with Paella, but the owners have recommended you enjoy it with duck rillettes, or rare-cooked venison steaks. It`s also said to be rich enough to accommodate the hot and sticky notes of Vietnamese Caramel Pork.