We have a very happy winemaker (someone even heard him singing), an equally happy vineyard manager and delighted owners.
2016 marked the year of our first major harvest, as the first vines that we planted in 2012 start to yield grapes. Our harvest this year has been superb. The flavours have been great – someone had told me that you can get fantastic flavours from very young vines when they produce their first crop, it’s certainly true this year. However, it was the yield and overall quality that impressed the most.
As we started harvest on Monday, I was thinking about our workforce. I always say our team, now about 30 people, are our greatest asset. Everyone, and I mean everyone who works at Rathfinny, comes to work genuinely engaged in their job and, best of all, seemingly proud and committed to be working there. I love it.
It’s always been important to us to build a local workforce and despite some scepticism from some quarters, we seem to be achieving just that. It has been hard and we’ve had a few false starts, but now we are building up a team of local people who come not only to harvest in October, but to prune in January/February.
We’re holding a ‘Village Vendange’ on Wednesday 26th October…
When I said this to Sarah she said “We can’t call it Vendange. It’s a village picking day”.
So that’s how it’s been publicised in the local Alfriston village shop and on the local village website. All welcome just let us know if you’re coming because in exchange for your labour we’re going to provide you with a lovely lunch!!
We decided a long time ago that as an English wine producer we should avoid, where possible, to use French words. We will only use the French words when an English equivalent is not available, or when the French word is the universally accepted descriptor.
Given our increasing crop yields, our four-tonne Coquard grape press was not sufficient to cope with the upcoming harvest, so we ordered a new eight-tonne press to give us sufficient capacity to allow us to process more fruit in a day. In previous harvests, our picking window has been less than two weeks, so with increasing yields over the next few years we’ll continue to grow and add new presses until we have a total of four eight-tonne presses.
This wonderful bumble bee has totally the right idea – found itself the largest sunflower adorning our wildbird seed headlands and is having a big fat snack. So many things have been happening on the Estate over the past few weeks, it’s been difficult to catch your breath. During all this, our grapes have been basking in the September sun and the sugar levels have been slowly rising in preparation for harvest.
The wines from our 2015 harvest have completed their second fermentation in bottle, and we have been put to rest in the cellar for a few years, until the wines develop the fantastic flavours from the yeasts autolysis (fresh bread, brioche, nutty).
I love this time of year. The vineyard is heading into what’s called Veraison, when the grapes start to ripen. The most visible sign of this stage is in our Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier, both red grapes used in our sparkling wine, as they start to change colour. Also, as you may notice from the pictures below the bunches start to close up as the berries swell (bunch closure), and skins start to soften.
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.