What a momentous week it has been, starting our very first English harvest at our Roman Road vineyard in Barham, Kent.
Hand harvesting commenced on Wednesday 5th October with Pinot Noir clone 292, which we had identified through maturity control as having suitable sugar, acidity and pH levels. The weather has been phenomenal over the past two months and we were truly blessed with the most perfectly clear and warm day to start picking. For Method Traditional sparkling wine production, hand harvesting is essential to ensure that only the ripest and cleanest fruit is harvested. Happily, given the ideal weather conditions experienced, there was no rotten fruit and maturity was fairly homogenous.
Having started at 7am, our picking team was finished by 11.30am and the fruit had been carefully transported the short distance back to the winery ready to load into our brand new Bucher Vaslin XPlus50 Inertys press. Again for MT sparkling wine production all the fruit will be whole bunch pressed in order to avoid extraction of colour and phenolics during processing. Although we had tested all our new equipment when it was delivered and installed, it was still a nerve-wracking moment turning everything on for the first time when it really counted!
We were pleased to have the support of a Bucher Vaslin technician for the first pressing cycle, who was advising us the use of the ‘Inertys’ system within this new press. This system allows us to inert the juice with nitrogen in order to protect the true fruit flavours of the juice and avoid oxygenation, an option that gives us more flexibility in winemaking terms, to create a flavour spectrum of styles from which to make the final blend.
From the press, the delicately coloured juice made its way into brand new stainless steel tanks, each with integral cooling systems. We were extremely pleased with the quality of the juice and how day 1 had unfolded!
The following Friday, we were at it again, this time hand harvesting all the remaining Pinot Noir in the vineyard (more clone 292 and clone 115). By the end of the day we had completed two more press loads and were relieved to already have all the fruit from one variety safely in tanks! Yields are low and a fraction of what we are used to at Sainte Rose, our property in southern France, but more importantly, the quality is looking excellent!
Tomorrow we are looking forward to doing a test pick of Chardonnay. We have more of this variety in terms of acreage and it appears to be cropping higher than the Pinot Noir. Watch this space for more pictures and updates as the harvest continues!