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Jobs boom set as vineyard grows

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Hundreds of jobs will be created as a business looks to expand in the next six years.

Up to 30 full time and 200 seasonal jobs are set to be created at Alfriston-based vineyard Rathfinny Estate.

The permanent jobs will be in the vineyard, winery and office. Up to 200 jobs will come as the vineyard expands and trained pruners are required to care for the vines.

The estate was bought two years ago by former stock broker Mark Driver and his wife Sarah.

The couple currently have 140,000 vines planted but hope to increase that to around 700,000 as they look to produce up to one million bottles of sparkling wine a year by 2020.

The business has also donated more than £100,000 to Plumpton College to help fund a wine research centre. Mr Driver studied at the college and now employs three former students of the well renowned learning facility.

Mr Driver said he hoped many of the jobs would go to people living in the area.

He said: “We currently employ six people in the vineyard and that will grow to approximately 12 full-time jobs as we plant more and more aches.

“Obviously we have also got people working in the office with administration and finance and that brings us to the winery which will grow to three or four jobs so we will have up to 30 people eventually.

“Then during our two busy periods in late summer into harvest we need some summer staff. When we are fully planted out we will need up to 200 people.

“There’s another time of year in January and February when we have to hand prune all the vines and that requires a lot of labour. In a couple of years we will need seasonal staff for that as well.”

Seasonal worker accommodation to house around 50 people is currently being built on the estate.

The multi-million pound winery is at the heart of the 600 acre estate and features sustainable design techniques and low carbon technologies.

The first 50 acres of vines were planted last April with the first wines expected to be ready to buy under the Craddle Valley label in 2014.

Mr Driver said: “We are delighted that the progress of the estate is going as planned and that we have been able to plant another 85,000 vines despite the cold weather.

“Spring has yet to arrive across the whole of northern Europe, but the relatively dry weather of recent weeks makes for perfect planting conditions.

“I am confident we will be able to put our new winery to good use at the end of the summer.”

estate is perfect for growing vines and producing award winning wine, Mr Driver said.

Traditional grape varieties Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Meunier will be grown along with Pinot blanc, a grape used in Champagne, will be grown on the estate.

Mr Driver compared the soil to that found in the Champagne region of France.

He said: “The top soil is only between 30-50 centimetres deep but it rests straight over chalk and that’s what provides the water source for the vines. “Secondly when it warms up it holds the warmth for longer so really good soil to grapes in.”

 

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