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Wine News

The great English plant up is underway in southern England

A former hedge fund boss is taking the biggest gamble of his life by opening the country's newest and largest vineyard - and he hasn't even finished his wine making studies!

Mark Driver and a team of 30 will attempt to take on the French by producing English Sparkling Wine from the Rathfinney Estate at Alfriston in East Sussex. He aims to produce 1 million bottles of fizz a year from the 400-acre plot. The aim is to produce an English sparkling wine that compares favourably with the likes of Bollinger and Pol Roger, with a retail price of around £25 to £26.

His plot is 88 miles as the crow files from Champagne in France and has a very similar soil and climate.The Rathfinny Estate will be one of the largest single site vineyards in Europe and aims to capitalise on the booming demand - both nationally and internationally - for high quality English sparkling wine. The award-winning Ridgeview is another local Sussex producer.

The planting of the four varieties of grapes - Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier and Riesling – started this week. Around 50 acres of grapes will be planted a year until 2020, when the full 400 acres will be under vine. The first still wine could appear as early as next year, with sparkling hitting the shelves in 2016 or 2017.