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Winemakers label English harvest 'vintage of dreams'

Published:  09 October, 2014

This year's English harvest is being labelled the "vintage of dreams" and "best ever" by winemakers, many of whom have finished picking ahead of schedule.

Bolney grape harvestEnglish winemakers herald their 'best-ever' vintagePicking of Pinot Gris under way at Bolney Estate in West Sussex.

Bob Lindo of Camel Valley in Cornwall told the combination of "no spring frosts, a perfect fruit-set, enough rain in August to swell the crop (even that had the good grace to fall during the hours of darkness) and the driest and warmest September for nearly 100 years came together for a perfect storm of good grape growing news at Camel Valley".

It started picking two weeks ahead of its earliest yet - 2006 - on September 23, and finished on October 7, the usual start date.

Lindo said yields were "very high", adding that it picked 84 tonnes, all during dry weather. Overall he described 2014 as a "vintage of dreams".

His son Sam, the International Wine Challenge's three-time winner of UK winemaker of the year, added: ''It's been a growing and wine making year to savour; a pleasure to make wine from such fantastic grapes."

Cherie Spriggs, winemaker at Sussex operator Nyetimber started picking on Monday, October 7, at the group's Nutbourne and Manor vineyards in West Chiltington. "The grapes this year are ripening well.  The earlier than usual bud-burst, followed by the wonderful spring weather, a very warm summer and an unusually mild September have created the optimal growing conditions for the fruit. We are confident that we will be producing some excellent sparkling wine this year. It's going to be a very busy few weeks so it's all hands on deck to pick the fruit at their optimum quality."

Meanwhile, at Hampshire's Jenkyn Place, owner Simon Bladon told he was expecting its "biggest and best" harvest to date, with quantities of between 80 and 100 tonnes. Dermot Sugrue, winemaker, said: "We've had a wonderful year, with an earlier than usual bud-burst, followed by a glorious spring and near-perfect flowering conditions. July remained very warm, dry and calm and this continued well into August and although disease pressure during these weeks was high, the vines looked green, healthy and happy. After a colder spell at the end of August, September has been warm, sunny and dry and we are anticipating a fantastic vintage, with excellent levels of ripeness. It promises to be an abundant crop and a super-busy harvest, a couple of weeks earlier than last year."

Henners in Sussex has already finished harvesting. Owner Larry Warr said: "Overall the quality of the fruit this harvest has been outstanding, and the ripeness perfect, leading to our earliest end of harvest ever. We are fantastically excited about the quality of the juice, and the wines that they will become. A vintage to remember."

At Surrey's Denbies Wine Estate, general manager Christopher White, said: "We are expecting this harvest to be one of if not our best ever.  The volumes are currently exceeding our initial crop estimates and the ripeness and flavours are exciting."

Three ChoirsGrapes ripe for picking in GloucestershireThree Choirs estate forecast "above average yield and quality as a result of this fantastic growing season".

At Three Choirs in Gloucestershire, winery director Martin Fowke said it has been picking for several weeks now. "The harvest started slightly early, in the second week of September, but this is not unusual for our early Siegerrebe and Solaris varieties," he said. But he added there has been a big difference in the speed of ripening of the later varieties.  "We are picking as fast as we can now, because the acid levels are dropping and everything is ready to come in. We expect to be finished harvest in the third week of October, which is very early, so the harvest has been an intense one."

He said September's "amazing weather" had allowed more time for sugars to increase and acids to drop.  Overall he said yields were not as high as first expected, given many grapes are "quite small and light". But he is still forecasting "above average yield and quality as a result of this fantastic growing season".

Sam Linter, head winemaker and managing director at Sussex's Bolney Estate, said 2014's warm, sunny conditions into September "has been great for us", by "helping to ensure excellent yields of high-quality, phenolically ripe fruit".

"We're lucky to have an early ripening site here at Bolney, so we've harvested our crop during the mainly dry conditions of the last few weeks. Needless to say, all are our tanks are now full."