Every year is different, and so, poses new challenges and rewards from one to the next. Our wines tell a story of each vintage, reflecting the weather, the struggles and the eventual reward that each year brings.
~ 2016 ~
This was a vintage that we began having learned many lessons from the previous, prepared the ensure the same mistakes would not happen again – firstly ensuring we put in place as many bird scaring devices as we could and doing our utmost to ensure a strong fruit set with the addition of a nutrient supplement that studies have shown increase flowering strength.
This year started at what most would consider an average time of year with bud burst around the end of April, this meant we had plenty of time to prepare the vineyard ahead of the new vintage. We were all set and in high hopes after the previous years disappointments we got through the early part of the year with good strong growth and the vines were clean and healthy. Flowering came later this year with a reduced amount of flowers this year than the previous two (no doubt due to the previous years poorer conditions), full flowering occurred early in July, which once again coincided with some very poorly timed showers… it seemed mother nature was trying to test us again!
Although the summer for fairly dry, it was cool and experienced very little sunshine days. This meant grape development was slowed and harvest seemed like it would be later than usual. Summer came and went and still we hadn’t enjoyed the long hot days we were in need of, that was until September came along, although not quite the weather of 2014, this was a brilliant month and helped to develop the grapes to maturity quicker than earlier anticipated (finally we thought we had struck some good luck!). As with the trials and tribulations of vintages, when one thing is going to plan another comes along to pose a new concern. This time it came in the form of pests – although we had our bird scaring devices in place early in a bid to combat our feathered foe, a smaller but equally as destructive enemy came along. As with our first vintage in 2013, this was another year of wasp attack (plus a few flies to help the cause), these little beasts took quite the fancy to our rather splendid (if a little light) looking Rondo crop and unfortunately there was very little we could do to appose them. We made the decision to pick slightly early in order to save what fruit we had left, as a result of the reduced yield we once again harvested all of our fruit together and blended them to produce what would become a new still rosé to replace the 2014 vintage wine.
We harvested all of our fruit on 24th September, with concerns that the acids would be a bit high but much to our amazement once pressed the juice was of perfect acidity and the sugars were surprisingly high too – the quality was exceptional and should prove to produce a delicious new vintage of our Verteuia Rosé.
~ 2015 ~
As is unfortunately often the way, Mother Nature can be cruel. Looking back at how brilliant a year 2014 shaped up to be, she gave very little in 2015. This year was one of many lessons that would cause this to be a very testing vintage. This was very much a vintage (as previously described) that was a struggle from its birth.
This year started with a fairly mild winter again, however bud burst I would say was around two weeks later than the previous year. This meant one good thing – less chance of late frosts causing any problems (the first small victory), and from here things were looking good for the year; the spring was fine with typical showers and sunshine aplenty and this carried on through to June when the vintage would take a turn.
With flowering coming every present we were in need of some warm dry weather to come to enable a strong fruit set and therefore good yield for the vintage. Unfortunately some poorly timed rain, and flowering coming in slightly earlier than in some neighbouring vineyards our main white crop (Madeleine Angevine) had very poor fruit set. Our Rondo set fairly well with around 70-75% of flowers setting fruit; an acceptable level for a difficult year.
Harvest was coming closer and with the summer being humid and fairly damp, disease was a real pressure this year – keeping our crop clean was going to be the biggest test sent this year (or so we thought!). The time to harvest was approaching and the grapes were ripening in line with one another – meaning we could harvest both varieties together (the second and final victory of the year). Having kept the majority of the crop clean we thought a job was all but done – until the pheasants decided to get involved; stripping the vines of their fruit at an unbelievable rate. We therefore harvested a modest crop and made the decision to blend the varieties together to make a single rosé wine – potentially destined to be our first sparkling wine!
One positive that we were able to take from this year was the emergence of Phoenix as a variety in the vineyard; previously considered to be unfit for the site, this year it shone being incredibly clean and providing a high yield for the few vines we had left – something to consider going forward to increase the planting as a second white variety to replace Chardonnay – a variety that seems very out of place in Devon.
We harvested all our fruit on * this year.
~ 2014 ~
Vintages can sometimes be a struggle from their birth, however every now and again we are rewarded with a year to remember; a ‘special’ year where almost everything you could wish for to happen does in fact come to fruition. 2014 was one of these years, described by some as ‘the vintage of dreams’.
It all began with a warm and early spring, the sun shone, whilst the showers gave the ground the nourishment it requires for the year ahead. With warm air temperatures, the ground soon began to warm and with this, the vines began to wake up. The sap that is the vines lifeblood, once again started pumping up from its roots, through its trunk and finally reaching the newly pruned fruiting canes. Budburst was surely soon upon us. Although an early year in the vineyard can mean a long growing season and therefore, higher sugars in the eventual grapes. It can also pose its own problems; a late spring frost in some more prone sites, could mean a significant reduction in yield or potentially no yield at all. Killing the year before it has even begun.
These frosts did threaten towards the end of spring, but in the mild climate of North Devon and well placed site, we escaped unharmed. This was the first tick towards what would become a great vintage.
Summer began with a hot June and carried on through until the end of July, with the odd rain shower, just to keep the nutrients in the soil topped up. The day after day of warm sunshine, made the work of a vigneron somewhat simple for a change! A matter of keeping on top of the mowing, canopy management and protection against the foe of a vigneron; mildew, oidium and botrytis, to name but a few, but, with warm dry weather, their threat is significantly reduced. With a dry June, it meant the critical flowering period was completed quite quickly with good and consistent fruit-set throughout the vineyard.
So on we went, further into the year, with August providing some much needed rainfall, what was September bring? Every winegrower was praying for a rare Indian Summer, and lo and behold, our prayers were answered. September was the driest month of the year, day after day of unbroken sunshine, and the warmth continued into early October; perfect ripening conditions and the perfect way to finish a near perfect growing season.
The harvest dates for this year were:
- September 20th: Madeleine Angevine
- October 4th & 5th: Rondo
- October 25th: Chardonnay
The fruit was all very clean, and of perfect ripeness. The highest quality fruit, to produce the highest quality still English wines.
~ 2013 ~
It began with a long and cold winter, that continued through all of Spring. We therefore began this vintage late, with bud burst not happening until mid-May. Once summer began, it really did begin! We had a hot dry June and July with a faultless flowering period and fruit set was even throughout the vineyard.
August came and with it, so did some unsettled spells of weather, bringing showers and sunshine to help swell and ripen the fruit nicely. What we didn’t know was that this would be the last of the summer sunshine for 2013, as when September and October set in, so did the Autumn rains. Just what we didn’t want in a late year, this meant the critical ripening period was extremely difficult and making deciding when best to pick the fruit even more so. If the weather wasn’t enough for us to deal with then the onslaught of wasp attack to the early ripening, thin skinned varieties (Madeleine Angevine and Siegerrebe). Testing the fruit several times a week seeing sugar levels rise and fall with the rain showers diluting the sugars, causes head ache after head ache for a vigneron. However, finally the time came and we decided on our harvest dates, now was the time to call in the reinforcements, phonecalls made to friends and family to help with our first harvest.
The Madeleine Angevine harvests were a success with the weather being fine and dry, with a small crop of nicely flavoured fruit, although the wasps had made a lot of damage. The Rondo harvest, although the weather was a disaster with the rain pouring all day, the fruit came off very clean with only a small amount of rot affecting some bunches, which were sorted and removed from the grapes for winemaking; ensuring only the best fruit is used to produce our fine Devon wines.
The harvest dates for this year were:
- October 8th: Madeleine Angevine and Rondo from bottom vineyard
- October 10th: Siegerrebe
- October 12th: Madeleine Angevine
- October 13th: Rondo