Pickers were out in the vineyards as early as mid-September in some parts of the UK, but the main bulk of grapes is being harvested now and over the next fortnight.
EWP marketing director Julia Trustram Eve said: “Overall, 2016 is looking to be a fantastic vintage for the UK. We haven’t experienced any dramatic weather patterns such as seen in other parts of Europe and have had the benefit of some great summer and early autumn weather just when our grapes need it.”
“It’s too early to predict yields but they are looking to remain a good average. There will be more acres coming into full production this year to add to the volumes being harvested this year,” she said.
After a challenging start to the growing season in some parts of the country, with cooler temperatures and unsettled weather up to and over flowering, the warm and dry August and September, still continuing into October, has allowed the vines to produce some high quality fruit. Earlier ripening varieties, many of them for still wines, are showing ripe fruit flavours, with high sugars and good acid balance.
When it comes to the sparkling wine varieties, wine consultant and master of wine Stephen Skelton is expecting sugars and acids on Chardonnay and Pinots to be excellent for sparkling as well as some great fruit for still wines. “If people wait, then some very good still wines from these varieties will be produced as well,” he said. These varieties account for more than 50% of all the plantings in the UK.
Sparkling wine producer, Lawrence Warr of Henners Vineyard, based in East Sussex said: “It’s looking like a fantastic year in the vineyard. The fruit is plentiful and ripening apace. The wonderfully warm summer has led to early ripening. It looks like another great year!”
Cameron Roucher, vineyard manager at Rathfinny Estate in Sussex reported: "2016 is shaping up very nicely. We were very lucky to avoid any late frosts which affected large parts of Europe."
Some vineyards have already publicised their delight at the quality of their crop this year. Denbies is reporting an “exceptional” vintage this year: “The high quality of our fruit is due to the favourable weather conditions which will in turn enable us to produce a record amount of single varietal “vineyard select” wines. We are anticipating high yields and expected to double the amount of sparkling production from last year’s harvest,” said Chris White, Denbies’ general manager.
Growers in East Anglia are reporting that they are up on yields this year, with the “exceptional” August and September weather to boost the ripeness and quality of their fruit.
In the south west, Bob Lindo of Camel Valley is anticipating “a fourth good year in a row”, with plenty of grapes and great quality fruit.
EWP says Dorset producer, Langham Estate believes that the 2016 vintage is “their best to date”: “The grapes are showing fantastic physiological ripeness with near perfect levels of sugar and acid,” said Daniel Ham, Langham’s winemaker.
Exton Park in Hampshire is reporting a particularly high quality Chardonnay crop. “Everyone is very excited about the quality prospects for the 2016 harvest,” adds Fred Langdale, Exton Park’s vineyard manager. “The fruit is looking excellent.”
Harvesting will continue through most of October. The final figures on the yields and other latest vineyard statistics will not be released until spring 2017.