English winery predicts bumper harvest

Kent-based winery Chapel Down has said it is expecting this year’s crop to be 10% bigger than its record 2013 harvest following an “exceptionally challenging” few years.

771-prodimage-37The forecast follows two years of very low harvests in 2011 and 2012 of around 300 tonnes each and a recent plunge in profits.

Low stocks in 2013 forced the winery to stop opening new accounts and, despite the year’s record harvest of about 700 tonnes, the company announced a slump in pre-tax profits to £68,000 on the year, down from £414,000, after a fall in wine sales of 24%.

Guy Tresnan, Chapel Down’s sales and marketing director, explained the impact of the smaller crops: “Two out of the last three harvests have been exceptionally challenging in terms of volumes.”

“Our still wine bottle numbers overall were reduced by over 60%, with some varietals down by 80%,” said Tresnan.

Speaking to Kent Business, chief executive Frazer Thompson said the 2014 prediction is a cause for optimism.

“Anybody giving a forecast for a harvest is a fool, but this year is looking spectacularly good,” he said.

2014 could see a turn around for Chapel Down.

2014 could see a turn around for Chapel Down.

“It follows our record harvest last year and I think we will see a harvest in excess of 10% greater than that in terms of volume this time. More importantly, we are expecting it to be one of the great years in terms of quality.”

Thompson said the weather has been a key factor: “The sunshine and the warmth that we have had of late has been sensational and it has given us what we hope is going to be a true vintage year in English wine.”

“Although it is difficult to translate the financial impact of the larger harvest at this stage, last year the vineyard was able to make about 700,000 bottles of wine from its bumper crop,” he said.

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