Small Bunches, Low Yields, Good Flavours
Living in the UK, perhaps we have become immune to disappointing weather. T-shirts, shorts and summer dresses appear in April and don’t get put away until October. We cling to the slightest chink of sunlight, stripping off and sunbathing in gardens, parks and beaches across the country. Farmers, on the other hand, are always moaning about the weather and this year they have justifiable reasons to do so. It’s been a very, very difficult year to grow anything, even grass, but especially grapes in the UK.
The fact is that the weather in 2021 has been really challenging for grape growers across most of Europe. In France they are already predicting a significant decline in their harvest. With what has been described as the worst growing season in some 40 years, the French agricultural ministry has provided €1bn of aid to grape growers after predictions that due to late spring frosts, hailstorms and heavy rains, total wine production will fall by over 30%, to between 3.26-3.56 billion litres compared to 4.69 billion in 2020.
As a single-site Wine Estate, we normally have full control over the growing of our grapes, as we can alter the yields to ensure we get the right balance of sugars and acidity at harvest time. The old adage is true that you ‘can’t make good wine out of bad grapes’ so the quality of grapes is paramount at Rathfinny, and if they don’t reach the exceptional quality levels we demand for our sparkling wines, then we won’t use those grapes. Sadly, we can’t control the weather and a combination of late spring frosts in April delaying budburst, cool weather in May and June delaying flowering, and heavy rains and cooling winds in July and August has meant that, our yields will be significantly lower than last year.
Luckily, we’ve had four bumper harvests in a row, so we have four great vintages of amazing Sussex Sparkling wine maturing in our cellar, which will be released over the next five years. I guess we always knew that there was a chance that we might have a year with low yields every now and again, and 2021 appears to be it.
On a brighter note, the Cellar Door shop is providing drop-in tastings and we’re excited to offer a new winemaking experience where guests can enjoy a tour followed by a tutored tasting, for an in-depth understanding of the whole grape-to-glass winemaking process. Our Flint Barns accommodation is open and the Harvest Marquee restaurant launches on 1st October for the whole month. We hope to see you soon.
Best wishes, Mark & Sarah Driver