English sparkling wine harvest begins

11 October, 2012

English Wine Producers has announced that harvesting of varieties for sparkling wine production for the 2012 vintage is now underway.

The announcement follows the news yesterday that leading English sparking wine maker Nyetimber is not going to make wine from this year’s grape harvest.

The EWP, which represents English grape growers and English wine producers,  says harvesting of the traditional varieties for sparkling wine production (Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier) across the south of England has started, following the early ripening varieties that were picked earlier in the month.

The projected volume from this year will be measurably lower, albeit the quality of the fruit reported from commercial growers is very good, claims the EWP.

Difficult growing conditions have plagued the 2012 harvests across Europe. In the UK, the cool and wet weather over flowering in June and July both reduced and delayed the fruit set leading to smaller crops and delayed ripening. 

“Vineyards are reporting that the fruit they have is looking clean and the sugars are reaching respectable – in some cases very good levels,” said Julia Trustram Eve of English Wine Producers. “This year the vine grower needs patience and the grapes need extra care.”

In a damage limitation exercise following Nyetimber’s announcement, the EWP has lined up some of English wines’ big guns to allay any buyers’ and consumers concerns over the quality and quantity from the 2012 vintage.

“This has just been one of those years where we’ve had to be more vigilant in the vineyard,” said Mike Roberts, founder of Ridgeview in East Sussex. “We and our partner growers have vineyards of a size that can be looked after with great attention to detail. The result is, even in a poor growing season, that very good grapes can be carefully picked, as we are seeing today as we press our 5thday of this year’s harvest.”

Rupert Taylor of Hush Heath Estate in Kent added: “Our fruit is looking very good, although we are looking at a smaller than average crop. We are small enough to harvest selectively so we can ensure that the resulting wine will come from the best and ripest fruit.”

Stephen Skelton MW, who is consultant to a number of vineyards across the south east, said: “It’s not all doom and gloom. Good sites, well sheltered and where growers have done the canopy management and spraying, have OK yields and quality considering that this has been such a challenging year. There is still a way to go for some varieties, Chardonnay especially, and I can see some going as late as early November. Late yes, but not disastrous.”

While there will be less still wine available on the market next year, availability of sparkling wines will remain buoyant, as stocks from earlier, larger vintages have yet to come on stream, and commercial producers will remain in a position to sustain supply, augmented by new producers launching their wines on the market next year and beyond.

Roberts said: “We have been able to commit to trade customers that we are in a position to promise to maintain current sales volumes to each of them, not just for 2013 but right through to 2015.”

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