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Yields down but English winemakers stay positive

Published:  23 July, 2008

Yields may be down considerably on last year thanks to the cold summer and deluge of rain, but England's vintners remain optimistic at the prospects of the 2007 vintage.

Peter Hall, who planted his Breaky Bottom vineyards in Lewes, East Sussex, in 1974, said his Seyval Blanc - his principal crop - was down 80% on last year, unable to set after flowering because of the heavy rains.

"Of course it's a big loss," said Hall. "But this is the way it's always been. Making wine in England is a challenge - a long-term venture.

"What is important for those winemakers facing similar low yields is whether they have enough good wine in reserve to fall back on. In my case, I do. But there will be some who don't."

Bob Lindo, chair of the UK Vineyards Association and owner of the award-winning Camel Valley winery in Cornwall, has predicted yields would be down 20% across the UK's 400 vineyards.

"The weather has been so appalling it is only very skilful growers who will be OK this year. But many English producers are very inexperienced at this game, so they won't know all the tricks." He said only those whose fulltime job was winemaking would have the time to devote to their grapes.

Alex Carr Taylor, winemaker at his family's Carr Taylor Wines in East Sussex, predicted a 10% drop in yield because of poor flowering, which was brought on by the April sunshine and earlier-than-normal budding.

Nevertheless, as this year's potential crop was looking larger than average thanks to good weather in summer 2006, yields, even with poor flowering, are still expected to be better than normal.

"As far as crop quality is concerned, the vines are still clean," he said. "Winter pruning and canopy management have probably been more critical to disease potential this year than many others." Botrytis could still present a problem, he admitted.