So, we’ve finished up our third grape harvest and we’re done with grape processing for another year. As a winemaker, this is what we’re building up to the whole of the rest of the year, it’s always a time that brings the most eclectic mix of emotions: Excitement, passion, joy, happiness: This is what we’re here to do, this is my dream, this is AMAZING! Trepidation, anxiety, stress – what if we don’t get the tonnage we need, what if there is a problem with the grapes, what if something goes wrong with the fermentation? Then… Exhaustion: Then I know it’s time to take a little break and reflect, relax and recuperate. I always feel a little sad when it’s over as I love the camaraderie of the harvest team, the thrill of seeing those grapes tipped into the crusher and pumped into the press!
This time of the year sets the number of bottles we can make in the vintage and therefore, what we have for sale next year and how much money the business can make. Of course, when you’re a new business this can be moment of great risk. In these unchartered times in a pandemic, we as a business were very lucky to have the support of you as our lovely customers and crowdfunding supporters to get us through the summer and help us buy more grapes than we ever have before. Overall the 2020 harvest was a good one, warm weather during September helped with ripening and less rain than last year over the picking period meant the grapes came in over a manageable four-week period (not seven days like last year!). Yields were lower this year, mainly because of a very late frost in May that killed a lot of the new buds. Unfortunately, this is the reason we haven’t made any Solaris again this year, not enough clusters developed. However, we do have a line up to be proud of for our 2020 vintage, read on for the wines we've been making.
As many of you know Bacchus has become our flagship wine, it’s won many awards and is also the own label English Still White for Fortnum and Mason (posh!!). The 2019 vintage has all but run out before Christmas (a few of our stockists still have some), and we don’t want this to happen again! Therefore, this year we secured 70% more grapes than last year. This year we went back to our 2018 grower in Leicestershire and forged a new relationship with a vineyard in Hampshire (not far from where my husband Nick grew up) to bolster our production. So far, I’m very pleased with the result, although there is still a long way to go before it’s ready for sale. I haven’t decided whether we will blend these two wines or leave then both as single vineyard, it all depends on the taste…..
This is the first time we’ve used Rondo, it’s a good grape for our cool climate, it ripens early, has good sugar levels, low acids and a beautiful ruby colour. This wine is currently going through its malolactic fermentation, this is where the harsher malic acid is converted to smoother lactic acid. Next, it will be transferred to the barrel.
One of the huge benefits of the crowdfunder was being able to buy Pinot Noir grapes for red wine for the first time, Pinot Noir grown in England has the potential to make some very fine wine and these grapes grown in Hampshire come at a premium. I’m so excited to see what this wine will become; at the moment it smells delicious like wonderful sweet cherries. We’ll also oak age a proportion of this and I can’t wait!
Back by popular demand, First Crush, although perhaps we’ll call it Third Crush – I don’t know. We have made rosé this year from both Rondo and Pinot Noir grapes, this is where we press the red grapes before fermentation and ferment the pink juice. These grapes were all from Hampshire and the wines have been kept separate, so I’m thinking a pale pink Pinot rosé and I have something else up my sleeve for the Rondo, watch this space...
We have returned to our trusty Seyval Blanc for the 2020 This Mortal Angel, we got a small crop this year, which came in last, so the fermentation is just kicking off. We will perhaps do something a bit different with this one this year!
I am so happy with the 2020 vintage so far and I am grateful that we have you all to support us. Thank you to Bert and Ceri, our growers in Hampshire and Leicestershire and the smaller than usual team of volunteers Nick, Ray (dad), Ruth (mam), Uncle Derek, Uncle Ivor and Stu who, alongside Liam and I, got us through all the grapes. The 2020 vintage will be ready and released from spring to autumn 2021 – Cheers! I hope by then we will be welcoming you to visit us. Thanks again.