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Record year: English and Welsh wine producers comment on 2018 vintage

With record volumes of grapes harvested across the board, we round up the reports from owners and winemakers in a year that could see as many as 18 million bottles of wine produced in the UK.

Aldwick Estate, Somerset.

As early as July, English wine producers were nailing their colours to the mast and enthusing about the 2018. Bob Lindo, who has been making wine at Camel Valley in Cornwall for just shy of 30 years, told db at the time that he’d never seen such a good vintage with no frost and 100% fruit set.

Stephen Skelton MW, consultant viticulturist for a number of English wine producers, agreed adding that the growing season had been unprecedented in terms of quality.

The prolonged spell of hot weather was followed by a period with very little rain, enabling the grapes to fully ripen on the vine without the need to rush the harvest.

Charles Simpson, co-founder of Simpsons Wine in Kent, told db earlier this month that this year’s harvest was the first in the winery’s history that they had been properly able to choose when to pick.

He added: “We’re taking longer to harvest this year as we have a larger crop which takes longer to ripen,” he said.

“The ‘Beast from the East’ earlier this year was actually really good for us as it kept things behind and meant we avoided early frost damage.

“The year before we had 20 degree days in March leading to an early bud burst, and when the frost came, we lost 60% of our crop.

“This year we can take in the grapes when we need to. There has always been some sort of pressure before, whether it’s disease or the weather. This is the first time that we’ve been able to properly decide when to do it.

Close-up of grapes at Lyme Bay, Devon.

Simpsons also highlighted that the issue this year would be the shortage of winery space – both in terms of processing and making the wine and also storing it.

Simpson added: “The big issue this year is where the grapes are going to go. Even a 10 to 20% increase would be an issue, but this year it’s well over 100%. In July we were desperately trying to find some extra tanks, and when we contacted our English suppliers they simply told us to get in the line”.

David Parkinson, CEO of WineGB, a trade organisation that represents vineyards in England and Wales, said that this year’s harvest provided a much needed lift for the UK in the face of Brexit.

A member of the Hattingley Valley team sporting a t-shirt with the words “Eat. Sleep. Rack. Repeat”.

He continued: “This year’s extraordinary harvest offers the UK wine industry so many exciting opportunities. It comes at a time when there is so much uncertainty around Brexit, particularly in the agricultural sector and is a real boost for the country. With the rise in rural employment that we are likely to see over the next 20 years, the growth in wine tourism that will result from the expansion of wineries across the country and the continuing increase in exports, the future of the UK wine industry looks very bright indeed.”

“Some winemakers started to harvest in September and others are still picking now but all are reporting clean, ripe grapes with concentrated fruit, good sugars and acidity levels, thanks to the ideal growing conditions. Producers across the country are predicting an excellent year for English still wines, particularly red wines. The unusually hot, dry summer has resulted in very ripe fruit with concentrated flavours which should translate into some very exciting still wines. The outlook is just as positive for sparkling wine producers on both the quality and quantity front.

Commenting on the volumes being reported, he added that many producers are recording at least double what they produced last year – although 2017 was a challenging year due to the early frosts.

He added: “With last year’s total volume at around 6 million bottles, the 2018 vintage is likely to be at least twice, if not three times the size. Whilst is far too early to predict actual volumes at this stage, WineGB will be conducting a vineyard survey in the first quarter of 2019.

“Whilst there is a small increase in volume due to new vineyards coming on stream or maturing, the most significant factor for this year’s high volumes and superb quality is the exceptionally long, warm, dry summer and early autumn.

“With consumer demand for English and Welsh wine continuing to grow both at home and abroad, the extra volumes will be welcomed. As the export market continues to expand, there is also more and more demand for our wines from markets such as the US, Asia, Scandinavia, Japan and Australia which presents further opportunities for producers”.


Nick Wenman.

Albury Organic Vineyard, Surrey – Nick Wenman, owner: “2018 is set to be an exceptional year. With no significant frost damage and a very warm summer to ripen the grapes, we have had a bumper crop of excellent quality fruit equating to twice last year’s yield and 40% more than any year since the vineyard was planted. The 2018 vintage will help to meet the rapidly expanding demand for our wines and will allow us to cellar some reserve wines to be used for more challenging years in the future”.

Denbies, Dorking, Surrey: “We harvested over 400 tonnes of grapes and which will produce just over 500,000 bottles in total of still and sparkling wines, certainly one of Denbies’ largest ever harvests.

“We are quietly optimistic about a small parcel of Ortega which we are hopeful will produce botrytis-affected berries for a delicious, honeyed dessert wine. These grapes will be left on the vine as late as possible, in order to concentrate sugars and flavours, before gentle hand-picking later this month. The hand-picking enables us to keep berry skins intact and gentle pressing gives the best quality free-run juice for fermentation. The juice will be partly fermented in oak and partly in stainless steel, to enrich the wine and add complexity”.

Sussex and Hampshire

Sam Linter

Bolney Wine Estate, West Sussex – Sam Linter, owner and winemaker: “This year’s harvest is looking phenomenal for Bolney, in terms of quality and quantity, seeing an increase of 83% in yield of bottles produced. This seems similar countrywide”.

Will Davenport

Davenport (Organic) Vineyards, East Sussex – Will Davenport, winemaker: “We have had a massive harvest – our biggest ever by a fair distance, with an average of over 3 tonnes per acre and almost no rot or mildew (we are organic and have only applied six sulphur sprays this year). Sugars are looking good and acids are just right. We have some fermenting tanks that are showing fantastic flavours.”

Ridgeview Wine Estate, East Sussex: 

Simon Robinson

Hattingley Valley Vineyards, Hampshire – Simon Robinson, owner (and Chairman of WineGB): “The ideal growing conditions we have enjoyed have led to this being a fantastic year for us, with almost all our suppliers delivering record yields. We pressed around 180 tonnes in 2017 but this year will probably be 650-700 tonnes when we have finished. Encouragingly, the hot sunny weather also means the quality of the grapes is excellent with high sugars, good acids and virtually no disease.”

Nyetimber, West Sussex, Brad Greatrix, winemaker: 

Hambledon Vineyard, Hampshire:


Ruth and Charles Simpson.

Simpsons Wine Estate, Kent – Ruth Simpson, co-founder: “We are expecting a much larger grape harvest this year, which we are delighted about given that we lost 60% of our crop to frost in 2017, although it has meant that we have had to rent a second grape press and bring forward the purchase of four 10,000 litre tanks to process this additional fruit. In 2017 we picked 3 tonnes per hectare and in 2018 we are now anticipating 5 or 6 times that, so as much as 17 tonnes per hectare from the three-year-old Roman Road Vineyard”.

Richard Balfour-Lynn

Hush Heath, Kent – Richard Balfour-Lynn, owner
“This is a record harvest and we’ve seen volumes and quality unlike any year since our first harvest in 2004. Some of our red grapes for making still wines are coming in at 94 Oechsle which produces an English red wine at 13% alcohol; it’s quite extraordinary and compares with a great Burgundy. The volumes are much needed after last year’s air frost which decimated the vines. I think it reflects the extreme weather patterns experienced around the world possibly as result of global warming. There is no doubt that all the wineries in Kent have benefitted enormously from the weather and all are producing record harvests”.

Gusbourne, Kent, Charlie Holland, winemaker:

Biddenden, Kent:

Domaine Evremond, Kent – Patrick McGrath MW, managing director of Hatch Mansfield and joint partner in the project: “We are thrilled that our vines have produced their first grapes after just one and a half years in Kentish soils.

“As the vines are still very young, this has been what I like to call a mini harvest. We are expecting the first full harvest to take place in 2019, Mother Nature permitting, but we are very pleased with the results so far and are very much looking forward to seeing how things develop over the years. It is exciting times”.

Devon, Cornwall and Suffolk

Liam Idzikowski

Lyme Bay Vineyard, Devon – Liam Idzikowski, winemaker: “2018 is a fantastic year for the still and sparkling winemakers of England and Wales. But for those who have planted in the right places and have dared to aim for still, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay have seen something really special, with incredible flavours and balance that should produce world-class still wines.”

Polgoon Vineyard, Cornwall – Clare Woodhouse: “Our harvest has been fantastic this year. We’ve had about 50% more fruit on the vines and great sugar levels. We’ve also had record numbers on our vineyard tours – well over 2000 visitors.”

Linda Howard

Giffords Hall, Suffolk – Linda Howard, owner
“Here at Giffords Hall, we are 60% up on last year, getting back to longer term averages. It has been a benign year – lovely quality with high volumes, no disease, and exceptionally high sugars and acidity – just about perfect, with the added bonus of a fair-weather harvest.”

Camel Valley, Cornwall – Bob Lindo: 

Worcestershire, Yorkshire, Monmouthshire and Gloucestershire

Astley Vineyard, Worcestershire:

Ian Sargent

Laurel Wines, Yorkshire – Ian Sargent, owner and chairman of the Mercian Regional Association: “This is without doubt our largest harvest and the fruit was in great condition for producing excellent wines. We believe that 2018 will be a great vintage, not only for Yorkshire but for all English and Welsh wine producers.

Robb Merchant

White Castle Vineyards, Wales – Robb Merchant, owner (and chairman of the Welsh Vineyards Association): “Harvest 2018 at White Castle Vineyard has been a gift, with volume well up and good quality, clean grapes. Following such a good summer, harvest could have started two to three weeks earlier than normal; however, with such large crops we have taken our time, to allow the grapes to enjoy the last of the autumn sunshine which has given us good sugars and lower acidity – ideal for still wines. Other Welsh vineyards are reporting much the same, with large crops and early harvest; some crops are double the normal harvest volume.”

Woodchester Valley Vineyard, Gloucestershire – Fiona Shiner, founder: “The fruit is very bountiful and clean this year – an amazing year!”

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