English harvest “not all doom and gloom”

English winemakers are offering reassurance that the 2012 harvest will not prove a complete washout.

Following the news that Nyetimber has decided to abandon this year’s harvest, other leading producers have confirmed that their 2012 vintage is well underway.

While volumes will be “measurably lower,” the English Wine Producers association confirmed: “the quality of fruit reported from commercial growers is very good.”

Commenting on early feedback from a harvest which is expected to extend into November, Julia Trustram Eve of English Wine Producers, said: “Vineyards are reporting that the fruit they have is looking clean and the sugars are reaching respectable – in some cases very good – levels.”

Mike Roberts, founder of Ridgeview Wine Estate in East Sussex, emphasised the extra vigilance required in a growing season which has been characterised by cool, wet conditions.

“We and our partner growers have vineyards of a size that can be looked after with great attention to detail,” he remarked. “The result is, even in a poor growing season, that very good grapes can be carefully picked.”

At Hush Heath Estate in Kent, Rupert Taylor, a former sommelier who joined the company last year as sales manager, endorsed this outlook. “Our fruit is looking very good, although we are looking at a smaller than average crop,” he reported, adding: “We are small enough to harvest selectively so we can ensure that the resulting wine will come from the best and ripest fruit.”

Offering an overview of the harvest, Stephen Skelton MW, who consults for a number of vineyards across the south-east of England, remarked: “It’s not all doom and gloom. Good sites, well sheltered and where growers have done the canopy management and spraying, have OK yields and quality considering that this has been such a challenging year.

However, he noted: “There is still a way to go for some varieties, Chardonnay especially, and I can see some going as late as early November,” a situation he summed up as “Late yes, but not disastrous.”

Roberts also stressed that there were no concerns of an imminent shortfall in supply, saying: “We have been able to commit to trade customers that we are in a position to promise to maintain current sales volumes to each of them, not just for 2013 but right through to 2015.”

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