It’s safe to say that summer 2018 will go down in history as one of the best for the English wine industry. As peace resumes around the vineyard and aromas and gurgles of fermentation fill the winery, we’re taking some time to reflect on what has undoubtedly been an astonishing harvest.
The near perfect, warm, dry conditions for each of the key times in the growing season, (budburst in the spring, leading to abundant flowering in late June and fruit set in July), meant that early in the season we were expecting (with hopeful trepidation) a bumper crop heading for our picking crates. With the addition of new vines coming into production for the first time this year, we have brought more grapes in than ever, and the vineyard team, troops of smiling, local pickers and winery team have been working with maximum energy and commitment.
Most importantly, the exceptional sunshine of 2018 has brought not just quantity but tremendous quality.
Kevin Sutherland, our vineyard manager and head winemaker comments: ‘The dry and crucially sunny weather during the ripening season has meant our grapes have reached optimum sugar levels while retaining the fresh acidity which make English wines so vibrant, and which is so necessary for traditional method sparkling wines. Throughout the season it was looking like an early harvest but the continued fine weather through September and October meant that we were able to leave grapes on the vines for longer, developing wonderful fruit flavours and ripeness while remaining clean. We’ve also had perfect picking conditions!’
In the winery, Collette O’Leary, our Wine Development Manager and Assistant Winemaker takes us through some samples: ‘Early tastings during ferments are showing particularly enticing, ripe aromas with apple, stone fruit even tropical flavours in the whites and the Pinots are already showing delicious, juicy, strawberry and cherry notes.’
For the first time this year we have brought in grapes from Ortega and Bacchus and hope to release these in 2019, our first still wines. We’ll have to hold out for our finished traditional method sparkling wines which won’t be released until 2022 or 2023 at the earliest but we’re certain they will be worth the wait!
Other highlights of our harvest season have included hosting trade and loyal customers for our harvest experience days. Our guests were guided through whole bunch picking of beautiful grapes in the autumn sunshine, followed by a tour of the winery with the wine press in action where they tasted the juice of the morning’s labour, before relaxing over a delicious lunch with our current releases.
Harvest ended on Friday 19th October with the last crates of grapes coming in to the winery and a well-deserved beer, ahem, English Sparkling Wine, for all!!!