A wine estate was given the royal seal of approval when HRH Princess Anne visited this afternoon (May 9).

The royal flew in by helicopter to the Rathfinny Wine Estate in Alfriston where she officially opened the new bottling and cellar buildings.

It comes as Rathfinny launches its first Sussex sparkling wines produced on its sprawling 210-acre vineyard.

The Princess Royal was greeted by crowds of excited primary school children from Alfriston School waving union flags, before she was taken on a tour of the buildings.

The new multi-million pound facility will enable Rathfinny, one of the country's newest vinyards, to bottle up to 80,000 cases of wine a year.

Princess Anne then greeted staff where she chatted about the vineyards. Among them was vineyard supervisor Ian Bray.

He said: “I talked with her about how the estate was arable land before and that we just planted new vines. It was a real surprise and pleasure to have her here. She seemed genuinely interested and lovely to talk to.”

She met other wine producers from Sussex, including Ridgeview, and architect Martin Swatton, who designed the new buildings. She joked with him about planning permission.

She then unveiled a plaque officially opening the buildings.

Princess Anne was presented with a bottle of Rathfinny’s sparkling wine and bouquet of flowers from hospitality apprentice Megan Bart, 18, from Seaford.

The princess asked her playfully “Is this [bouquet giving] part of your training?”, before leaving the estate to applause.

Founder Mark Driver, who started the estate on the site of a farm in 2010, said: “It was just lovely to have royal support for what is a very fast growing industry which is creating lots of jobs across the county of Sussex and producing a great product which is selling here and abroad.”

Rathfinny comprises 185 acres of mainly pinot noir, chardonnay and pinot meunier.

Its first sparkling wines will be launched in June.