As we eagerly approach another harvest season, we find ourselves immersed in the intricacies of data collection, painting a picture of what the upcoming harvest of 2023 might bring us.
The vineyard team were sent out to count bunches and get an average yield forecast. The results were interesting to say the least! We’re hopeful, optimistic but cautious in saying this harvest could be one to remember.
To begin, let's consider last year's weather and yield and how they might impact this year's harvest. Favourable weather conditions during the key phenological stages, flowering and inflorescence, in 2022 had provided a strong foundation for a potentially large yield in 2023. Additionally, last year’s smaller harvest means our vines have extra energy to produce a greater yield this year.
Having done well to avoid spring frost and experiencing excellent weather through May and June, the stage was set for a successful budburst, flowering, inflorescence, and fruit set.
A strong fruitset this year provided a sound foundation for a greater yield.
By the end of June, an air of excitement blew through the English wine industry. With a higher crop load compared to last year, it seemed as though we were set for a harvest similar to the fabled 2018 and the media was predicting a “Bumper Year”. Yet, like a subtle twist in a timeless narrative, July unveiled its own script, where rain weaved a new refrain. The rhythm of ripening slowed, the vines seeming to pause, and the result had left our vines trailing approximately two weeks behind their anticipated schedule.
Despite these challenges, our vineyard team's dedicated efforts have effectively maintained the health and resilience of our crop by proactively mitigating potential disease risks. As we look forward to some sunshine in the build-up to harvest in early October, we've taken time to optimise our vineyard's conditions to ripen this larger crop as much as possible.
Messy job! By cutting (trimming) the top of the canopy, we encourage the vine to put more energy into producing new fresh lateral shoots and leaves.
As part of our preparations, we've leaf stripped around the fruiting zone to ensure the grapes have direct exposure to essential UV rays. This speeds up the ripening process, helps to evaporate excess moisture, and increases the airflow within the canopy, further helping to reduce any possibility of disease. We followed this with trimming the top of the canopy. This not only makes the vineyard look neat and tidy but also encourages the onset of lateral shoots.
Leaf stripping and trimming both remove older and tired leaves, whilst the newly forming lateral shoots bear fresh leaves, all of which increases the overall photosynthetic efficiency of the canopy – crucial for ripening towards the end of the growing season!
Newly formed lateral shoots prove essential for late season ripening.
Currently, we're looking at a potentially larger harvest, albeit one with the hallmark of youthful ripeness, which bodes well for crafting sparkling wines. We should also note, however, that vines are readily robust and have an impressive ability to catch up on their schedule given the right conditions.
So, the recent sunshine and warmth over the past couple of weeks has done some good in getting things back on track, although these final moments in the build-up to harvest will prove crucial.
However, this is England so we are sure there will be a few more twists between now and harvest - as always, it’s a white knuckle roller coaster ride until the last grape is picked and safely pressed and in the tanks!