The 2018 grape harvest is complete and we are delighted that it has indeed been a good one!
Predictions of a 'good year' for English wine started back in May, when Spring arrived and passed with no frost damage. Those of you who have followed us for some time will no doubt remember the damage caused last year by early bud burst followed by late Spring frosts, and the poor harvest that resulted. No such issues in 2018 though, a huge relief for growers across the country.
It's not just Spring frost that can cause havoc for English wine producers - the great British weather affects almost every aspect of viticulture in this country. But this year, the weather was on our side it seems! Our weather station monitors temperatures on the vineyard, which allows us to calculate 'growing degree days'. From the graph below, you can see how the weather of this summer compares to previous years.
Many of you asked us whether the summer heatwaves and lack of rain would cause any problems, but vines like heat and the prolonged spell of hot weather resulted in a huge amount of growth and so many bunches that we started to wonder if the grapes would all ripen! Ironically, this saw us removing fruit throughout August in what's known as a 'green harvest', to ensure that the remaining fruit would ripen well; quality is indeed more important that quantity.
Every year Alex tells us never to plan anything in September, in case we need to start harvesting, and this year she was right! 2018 is the first year that we have picked any grapes before October. We started our harvest at Albury on 19th September, a day spent picking the Pinot Gris which we plan to make a still white wine from this year. It felt exciting to be harvesting on a gloriously sunny day, with blue skies overhead and the vine leaves still vividly green.
With so many grapes to pick, we were lucky to have willing volunteers from our wine club and the local community wanting to join in the fun - well over a hundred of you helped bring the harvest in this year, and we are very grateful to you all for your enthusiasm and hard work.
Some of our wine club members even helped us make the 'pied de cuve' for this year's biodynamic wild ferment. When this wine is released in 2023 (!) you can drink it knowing you literally crushed the grapes that went into it yourselves.
The harvest at Albury finished on the 4th October, but this year we had another vineyard to harvest. Lansdowne is located just down the road from Albury, between Shere and Ewhurst, and we have been managing it since the beginning of the year.
The traditional Champagne varieties of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier are planted over 10 acres at Lansdowne, our new 'sister vineyard'. There is also some Sauvignon Blanc, a grape variety that doesn't particularly thrive in the UK unfortunately! So we plan to use the Sauvignon wine to make a Vermouth.
All in all we picked 37 tonnes of fruit from the Albury site, which is the most we have ever picked, and more than twice the harvest of last year (15 tonnes). Needless to say, this year is unprecendented in terms of quality and we can't wait to taste the 2018 vintages. The first wine to be released from this year's harvest will be the Silent Pool Rosé which will be available from May next year. We had a little taste today and it's already delicious!
We'll leave you with this stunning image of the vineyard captured by Jonathan Blackham who is undertaking a project to showcase the vineyard over an entire year, from grape to bottle. Jon has taken some amazing photos and you can see the project so far at www.jonathanblackham.com