The 2023 grape harvest is complete and we’re celebrating a huge crop at Albury!
Predictions of a ‘great year’ for English winemakers started back in May, when Spring arrived and passed with minimum frost damage. A very wet July saw the berries swell with water but we began to worry that mildew would hit the fruit, so the September sunshine was a welcome relief! Warm weather was crucial to ensure the a large crop is also a quality one, and we’re delighted that the 2023 harvest turned out to be exceptional, both in terms of quantity and quality.
Harvest began at the beginning of October and took place over three weeks of glorious sunshine and blue skies. With so many grapes to pick, we were lucky to have a record number of willing volunteers from our wine club and the local community wanting to lend a hand with the grape picking! Nearly 300 people were involved in the harvest and we couldn’t have managed without them. Their efforts were rewarded with plenty of Albury bubbly, hot lunches and a Harvest Party featuring a spectacular firework display over the vineyard.
Some of our wine club members even helped us crush the grapes! As an organic and biodynamic vineyard, we like to adopt a different approach to winemaking and this year’s conditions created the perfect opportunity to focus on a more natural technique.
A group of volunteers joined our vineyard managers to make this year’s 'Pied de Cuve' which involved picking a few buckets of Chardonnay grapes, de-stemming the berries and crushing them by hand. The juice was left to ferment from wild yeasts found naturally occurring in the vineyard. 10 days later, we added the fermenting Pied de Cuve to the rest of the Chardonnay which continues fermenting in the winery – not in a barrel or tank, but in a concrete egg.
As far as we know, we’re one of only two producers in the UK making wine in eggs! However, rather than a new winemaking trend, the idea of using egg-shaped fermenters has been around since ancient times according to findings of archaeologies in Georgia who unearthed clay pots known as 'qvevri'. Similar objects named 'amphora' were then found in Greece and Rome, before barrels became the preferred means of storing and transporting wine.
The first modern egg-shaped wine fermenter was produced in 2001 and the egg’s smooth surface allows the wine to move continuously and freely whilst remaining in contact with the yeast at all times so more complex flavours develop than in a barrel or tank. At the same time, the semi-porous concrete allows the wine to 'breathe', softening the tannins while the liquid ages. This is difficult to achieve in a tank and, whilst barrels allow air in, they also impart oak flavours which we don't always want in our wines.
In total, we harvested nearly 54 tonnes of fruit across the several vineyards we manage including 30 tonnes from the original Albury site and just under 2 tonnes from the new vineyard planted at Albury in 2021 – our first crop from this site! We also brought in 20 tonnes from Lansdowne, a record for this vineyard which is located near Shere, just 10 minutes from Albury.
This means we’re likely to produce around 45,000 bottles of wine from the 2023 vintage! Most of these won’t be ready for drinking until 2026 but we look forward to releasing our still wine – Silent Pool Rosé in May.
We leave you with this super image of our harvest volunteers captured by Chris Gorman, The Big Ladder Photographer. It was featured in The Telegraph!