Denbies Wine Estate reports earliest ever harvest

Denbies Wine Estate in Surrey has announced that its 2017 harvest is the earliest in its 31-year history, with picking started on Wednesday 6 September.

The Dorking-based winery – England’s largest single estate vineyard – began picking approximately 3 tons of its Solaris grapes, an early-ripening, white hybrid varietal created in Germany. Early harvests at Denbies usually begin in the third week of September, the winery has said, making this year notably early.

Christopher White, chief executive of Denbies, commented on the “outstanding” sugar content and quality of the grapes, given the frost damage that occurred earlier in the year.

“We have never started harvesting this early, and even for an early ripener such as Solaris, the volume, sugar content and quality is quite outstanding. Early concerns at the beginning of the season have proven to be unfounded. Although volumes will be slightly lower than those of the last few years, early indications suggest that the quality will be very good,” he said.

In terms of the weather, it has been a year of ups and downs, with late spring frosts hitting English vineyards in April, leaving some with considerable damage and others relatively unscathed.

Speaking to the drinks business shortly after the frost struck, White revealed that the wine estate was one of those most affected. He estimated that 75% of the crop had been damaged as temperatures plunged to -6°C.

“Bud burst started early this year with the mild weather. This, combined with the severe drop in temperature at this more advanced stage in the vine growth, caused more damage than normal.”

“In spite of extensive anti frost measures put in place and with temperatures at -6⁰C it was impossible to protect the vines against damage. This year has the potential outcome reminiscent of the 2012 harvest and the challenges faced that year,” he told db.

Despite the damage, however, the heatwave in June helped to mitigate some of the damage and ‘rescue the vintage’.

In June, White told the drinks business that the fruit had not only recovered, but that the wine estate had also experienced a good fruit set following the high temperatures.

“We’re now anticipating a 50-60% drop on normal harvests, which is not great, but it is better than we anticipated earlier in the year,” he said.

Denbies expects to begin picking its Rondo grapes today (Monday 11 September). The estate currently has a range of 16 wines and produces over 450,000 bottles every year.

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