English winemakers hail ‘near perfect’ 2014

The English wine industry is revelling in the prospect of a second consecutive record year as this summer’s warm, dry conditions continue to hold out during harvest.

Harvest in full swing at Chapel Down

Harvest in full swing at Chapel Down

Even before picking has finished – or even started in the case of many sparkling wine estates – producers across the country are predicting a large harvest of high quality grapes that looks set to surpass the “excellent” 2013 vintage reported by English Wine Producers following last year’s similarly warm summer.

“2013 was good, but this year has been near perfect from start to finish,” reported Roger White, owner of Yearlstone Vineyard in Devon.

The mood was similarly upbeat in Hampshire, where Jenkyn Place’s owner Simon Bladon tweeted: “We’re getting very excited about this year’s harvest. We’re hoping it will be our biggest & best ever.”

Among the country’s clutch of most recently established producers welcoming such favourable conditions as they seek to establish themselves is Wendy Outhwaite QC, who launched the West Sussex-based Ambriel brand with her husband Charles last year.

“The best thing that has happened is that the nights have remained warm,” she told the drinks business. “The fact that there has been no dramatic temperature drops overnight has really helped ripening.”

With Ambriel’s Burgundian clones of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir “already at full ripeness”, Outhwaite remarked: “The flavours are absolutely outstanding.” She attributed this in particular to the long, slow ripening which has characterised 2014’s growing season.

Meanwhile Bob Lindo, owner of Camel Valley Vineyard confirmed: “Ripeness and quantity exceeded expectations and pre-picking predictions. There’s a lot of ripe grapes out there for the 2014 vintage.”

Indeed, so warm have conditions been that at the end of last week he remarked: “I never thought I’d ever say this, but I’m beginning to wonder if grapes will have a high enough acidity by the end of picking.”

This run of two consecutive strong vintages has been particularly welcome after the wet, problematic 2012 when one of the country’s largest producers, Nyetimber, famously decided not to harvest any grapes at all.

The good conditions will also offer a boost to the English wine industry as it undergoes a period of major expansion which will require producers to find a wider market for their wines. According to English Wine Producers’ data from 2013, there are now 135 wineries in England, with a combined 1,884 hectares of vineyards and 4.45 million bottle production.

However, earlier this year Rathfinny Estate in East Sussex opened the UK’s largest winery to-date, which aims to produce one million bottles a year by 2020. Another major producer, Chapel Down, recently embarked on a large scale crowdfunding initiative to raise money for expanding its business.






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