I often write about the weather, and it’s hard not to be obsessed by the weather when it controls everything we do in the vineyard.
Although June was fairly ordinary this year, at least we’ve had a summer and it looks like it may continue for a while yet.
It’s not just us though; global temperatures for the first seven months of 2016 have smashed yet more records, suggesting we are on track for the world’s hottest year on record
The Rathfinny Trail has been undergoing some minor alterations to enhance the visitor experience.
Flowering in the vineyard is such a wonderful time, it can bring a lot of stress and worry, with one eye constantly on the weather but once it is complete we can finally see just how much fruit we will have this year.
Sure we can do bud counts at pruning, shoot counts early in the season, and inflorescence counts once the flowers are visible but it’s not until the vine has actually set its fruit for the year that we can get a true idea of that years crop.
The weather at flowering is critical to production in vineyards, and luckily this year it’s been pretty good. June, although warm was fairly ordinary with rain regularly throughout the month, in fact we had 18 days of rain. By chance the rain stopped just in time for the beginning of flowering. So far most varieties and blocks are well into flowering with some near completion.
So what does flowering in a vineyard look like?
I’ve mentioned in previous blogs about our research in conjunction with Sussex University on parasitic wasps and enhancing general biodiversity on the vineyard. Janine is undertaking the Phd research under the watchful eye of Professor Dave Goulson and the ground has been prepared and sown with the various mixtures. Sounds easy.
Last week the Metropole Hotel in Brighton played host to the snappily titled International Cool Climate Wine Symposium (ICCWS). The event was opened by Jancis Robinson who made the case for DEFRA to take the industry more seriously http://www.jancisrobinson.com/articles/defra-needs-to-take-english-wine-seriously – It was really a coming of age for the English Wine Industry, as some of the great and good from the world of wine academia, media and the blogosphere descended on Brighton to discuss topics as wide ranging as Managing Phenolics, Pest and Diseases to Oenotourism.
With the 9th International Cool Climate Wine Symposium less than a week away, preparations are coming to an end, and the final touches are being added.
This time around England is hosting the Symposium in Brighton, bringing together the great and the good of wine, viticulture, and wine business to share ideas and meet with others in the wine industry.
We are hugely excited about our beauty event on June 16th where our vineyard is the source of inspiration for a unique occasion aimed at promoting wellbeing and understanding of the beneficial properties of vines. We will talk about the best ways to look awesome like using microblading, see our videos to learn more about microblading! Participants will enjoy a short guided walk amongst the vines, a beauty workshop and seasonal lunch using fresh, locally sourced ingredients, all taking place in and around our beautiful Flint Barns. They will leave with an individual beauty prescription and will receive 10% off the purchase price of beauty products on the day.Why are we doing this? Visitors to the Gun Room will know that we stock the Caudalie range of cosmetics. Whilst our buying is usually local, there was a compelling case to stock this French brand, because it is made from grapes, is of exceptional quality, and it is a committed brand. Like Rathfinny, the owners of Caudalie are keen to give back to the environment.
A very interesting debate has emerged over recent weeks to do with Terroir and the changing Terroir
So what is Terroir? It’s a maddening French word that has no direct English equivalent, however, the simplest definition is that it is the environment in which grapes are grown and a wine is made. The online dictionary definition is ‘the complete natural environment in which a particular wine is produced, including factors such as the soil, topography and climate’. Or as Jamie Goode, a well known wine writer defined it – ‘the site or region specific characteristics of a wine’.
In my view it can be summarised as follows, Terroir is the: weather, soil, grapes and people.
Each year the Oregon Winegrowers hold their annual symposium in Portland. The symposium is comprised of two full days of panel discussions and presentations covering the most relevant topics in viticulture, oenology and wine business. In addition to this it also hosts the Northwest’s largest wine industry trade show.
This year I was lucky enough to attend the symposium as well as spend a day visiting vineyards in the Willamette Valley. For those of you who aren’t up to speed with Oregon wine this is prime Pinot Noir country.
We have recently received approval from the South Downs National Park Planning Authority for permission to build two, admittedly large, new buildings to process our wine – bottling, riddling, disgorging and labeling, and store our sparkling wine ‘on-lees’ – whilst the wine matures and the secondary fermentation takes place and the bubbles appear. After a nervous presentation we got unanimous support from the committee for our plans. Thank you to the SDNPA as we had no plan B!
Our harvest was quite late, even for England.
We started picking grapes in the last week of October. The summer was poor, July and August were cool and a little damp but September and October were fine and dry and great ripening months so we managed to pick our first decent harvest at Rathfinny. We had over 25 tonnes of grapes and the really great thing was that they were really clean and had a great balance of sugars and acidity for sparkling wine. So we have a happy and busy winemaker and we will be bottling some 25,000 bottles of Sussex Sparkling, adding to the 6,000 bottles from 2014 in the cellar, in spring 2016. So we’re still on track to release our first Rathfinny Sparkling wine in 2018.
Every year the French winemakers organise the Vinalies, which is a professional national tasting that assesses both French and foreign wines. The first rounds of the tasting have each region of France tasting its own products for a pre-selection. Once that selection is done, the final tasting will occur when all winemakers are gathered again, in April, when the pre-selected wines are tasted and rated to pick our favorites, give awards and finally publish a guide.
Now if that title has not stirred your interest nothing will.
Has winter arrived? Are the birds singing? Can we see ‘mother’ nature stirring from her slumber in the vineyard and in our gardens?
Phenology is the study of the cyclical change in nature in relation to the climate and the seasons. We were glad to see the temperature finally dip in the vineyard just in order for the vines to realise that they can stay a sleep a little longer. While they sleep through the winter they can take pretty much any climatic variation the UK can throw at them. During their sleep we still tend to them, as they are the most important element on the Estate (apologies Sarah) and they all get a haircut to regulate growth and stimulate grape production – this haircut is referred to as pruning and is far better described in Cam’s previous blog.