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.
The most pleasing thing about the harvest in 2015 was that it finally confirmed that we have a great site for grapes. In 2012 and 13, which were both very challenging years, cold wet and very dry, made me start to question what I was doing. I went back to the weather records we had amassed and studied the data and to me it confirmed that they were unusual years and the trend was still for warmer summers and enough ‘growing degree days’*, to ripen grapes to make great sparkling wine. So getting a great harvest in what was a challenging year gave me the confirmation I wanted.
The success we have had in 2015 received a further seal of approval in early 2016 when the French Champagne house Taittinger have announced that they are joining the English wine industry and have bought 69 hectares of land, also on chalk, on the North Downs in Kent. Welcome to the English wine industry.
So we now look ahead to many more great harvests… Cheers
*Growing Degree Days – (GDD) Is a term used to assign a heat value to each day during the growing season (April – October). Everyday when the average temperature is above 10oC is assigned a value (for example, if the average temperature is 15.5 oC = 5.5 value for that day), the sum of all those values give you the Growing Degree Days.