At the start of this growing season, the idea that 2018 could be the greatest vintage English Wine had ever seen, seemed unlikely: frosts had affected a number of vineyards and the prospect of another year where grapes would be in short supply seemed inevitable. In the end the opposite was true. Due to phenomenally good weather at flowering (mid-June) followed by a fantastic summer, not only was there a very large harvest, but one that would be picked relatively early and with above average ripeness.
As our vines were only planted in late May this year – we are reliant on buying grapes from a number of loyal local vineyards, and this year we added a couple more, including one Biodynamic vineyard (yay!). We had concerns with our own plantings, with no rainfall for over 8 weeks from planting. We held off from watering the vines, and hope that despite showing very little foliage, they got their roots down deep which will stand them in good stead for next season.
The amount of grapes produced this year in the UK was extraordinary, sadly, there were stories of grapes being left out for the birds, as every winery in England had reached maximum capacity, even with some making use of milk tankers and gigantic bag in box containers. Thankfully earlier this year, we managed to secure some EU funding through Defra and ordered a raft of new tanks. We also received a shipping container with 12 new Qvevri from Georgia. Due to delays in shipping, both the tanks and the Qvevri didn’t turn up until the middle of harvest, at times it was touch and go whether we would run out of space or not, and thanks to one of our growers, we managed to find some temporary capacity when things got tight.
In the end we made wine from a total of 10 vineyard sites and 13 grape varieties, and at times we had up to 30 different fermentations on the go. We pushed things more than we did last year, much more skin contact, carbonic maceration, zero sulphur, red wines and orange wines. The winery is packed to the rafters, and now most of the wines have finished their ferments and have started to settle, the true nature of the wines and of the vintage start to really reveal themselves. As a result of how good the vintage was, the innate quality of the wines across the board is really impressive, and thankfully, despite taking more risks with the wine making and biting off more than we could chew at times, we haven’t diminished any of the latent potential that the grapes had when they arrived.
Now we have to bide our time and watch the wines develop over the winter and into the spring and then gently start to shepherd the wines into bottle.