A Wine Writers View on the World of Wine. Formerly Magics Wine Guide and Reviews for Newbies
Despite the news that one of England’s major sparkling wine producers has made the decision not to harvest this year, all other leading English wine producers are now harvesting, and the 2012 vintage is well under way. Harvesting of the traditional varieties for sparkling wine production (Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier) across the south of England has just started, following the early ripening varieties that were picked earlier in the month.
The projected volume from this year will be measurably lower, albeit the quality of the fruit reported from commercial growers is very good.
Difficult growing conditions have plagued the 2012 harvests across Europe, with reports of a significant drop in yield from Champagne to Bordeaux, even Spain and Italy. In the UK, the cool and wet weather over flowering in June and July both reduced and delayed the fruit set leading to smaller crops and delayed ripening.
Close attention to the vineyards this year has been paramount, and appropriate measures have been taken to ensure healthy fruit development. “Vineyards are reporting that the fruit they have is looking clean and the sugars are reaching respectable – in some cases very good – levels,” commented Julia Trustram Eve of English Wine Producers. “This year the vinegrower needs patience and the grapes need extra care.”
“This has just been one of those years where we’ve had to be more vigilant in the vineyard,” comments Mike Roberts, founder of Ridgeview Wine Estate in East Sussex. “We and our partner growers have vineyards of a size that can be looked after with great attention to detail. The result is, even in a poor growing season, that very good grapes can be carefully picked, as we are seeing today as we press our 5th day of this year’s harvest.”
Rupert Taylor of Hush Heath Estate in Kent added: “Our fruit is looking very good, although we are looking at a smaller than average crop. We are small enough to harvest selectively so we can ensure that the resulting wine will come from the best and ripest fruit.”
Stephen Skelton MW, who is consultant to a number of vineyards across the South East, commented: “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. There is still a way to go for some varieties, Chardonnay especially, and I can see some going as late as early November. Late yes, but not disastrous.”
Whilst there will be less still wine available on the market next year, availability of sparkling wines will remain buoyant, as stocks from earlier, larger vintages have yet to come on stream, and commercial producers will remain in a position to sustain supply, augmented by new producers launching their wines on the market next year and beyond.
Adds Mike Roberts: “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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