Never mind the Napa Valley – Sussex is the hot new wine tourism destination, judging by Rathfinny Wine Estate. Over 250 acres of vines have been planted, with more to come, on a huge swathe of the South Downs, where wine tours and bed and breakfast are among the attractions.
Funded by former city hotshots Mark and Sarah Driver, the estate's dapper flint-walled restaurant is built into the winery with sweeping views of the vines. By day it hosts tastings at a copper bar, plus an excellent set lunch, while ambitious tasting menus are served on Friday and Saturday evenings.
Head chef Chris Bailey coaxes big flavours from local produce, but there are also deft touches. Witness silky cod brandade with egg and dandelion leaf, punctuated by a sweet and sour salvo of Muscat grapes, while pickled shimeji mushrooms add extra umami to slow-cooked ox cheek and bone marrow. Special mentions go to the outstanding homemade soda bread with samphire butter, and a totally tropical pud of roasted pineapple with coconut sorbet.
Don't leave without trying Rathfinny's sparkling wine. The zesty Blanc de Blancs is 100% Chardonnay, while the Pinot Noir-led sparkling Rosé has lovely strawberry notes. Who needs Champagne when you can order a glass of Sussex?