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Grapes Gone Wild: The Harvest That Broke the Record

How Did it Go?

As the final bunches of grapes go into the last press load, it’s worthwhile reflecting on what can only be described as a ‘monster’ harvest. After 13 days of frantic picking and pressing, we have absolutely smashed our record for the total size of the harvest, which had stood at about 200 tonnes, by over 25%. Since our best estimate of the size of the harvest ahead of time was about 155 tonnes – my first question was how on earth did I get it so wrong? Since I over-estimated last year’s harvest by about 20%, this demonstrates two things; how difficult forecasting grape production in England is and how useless my predictions are!

Chardonnay grapes arriving by the bin load, picked by the machine harvester.

Who Made it Happen?

However, before explaining what caused this year’s miracle, we have a few thank yous. Firstly, to the entire Greyfriars team who have picked, transported and processed an extraordinary amount of fruit in a ridiculously short period of time. Not only have they responded to the additional stress but they have done it in the same amount of time and we are all still safe and smiling!

The Greyfriars team after finishing the last day of Harvest 2023. What an effort!

In no particular order; David and Dom and all the team that have worked in the vineyard this year – you produced a huge crop of ripe, healthy and flavoursome grapes through some challenging conditions especially in July and August.

Oliver and the winery team have processed a record amount of our fruit but also almost 30 tonnes of fruit for our contract winemaking clients. Thanks to Sarah and her team for superbly organising the three days of volunteer picking and keeping everybody superbly fed.

Also, a round of applause must go to everybody who, in addition to their normal job, dived in to help the harvest go extremely smoothly.

A huge thank you goes to all the volunteers who gave up their weekends to come and help us bring in the grapes. In total about 315 people came over the three days. We can honestly say we couldn’t have done it without you and we are excited about sharing the wines made from the grapes you picked for us. Over the three days, you picked an extraordinary 39 tonnes of fantastic fruit. An extra big thank you goes to those who came on the second Saturday and endured a good drenching but kept on smiling – some of you were even disappointed not to pick more after lunch!

Some of our fantastic volunteers enjoying their complimentary lunch and glass of fizz!

As you know an army marches on its stomach so I would like to thank the people who fed us during harvest. Once again Olivo provided the delicious hot team lunches. Jim and his amazing hog roast and the Paella Fella team for their great paella and take on patatas bravas which resuscitated our volunteer pickers. Also, thanks to all the Guildford takeaways who kept the late crew fed in the evening – you know who you are!

Finally, thanks again to Sam Barnes and his team on the machine harvester. For the third year running he has pulled out all the stops to help us get picked – thanks for your flexibility and understanding.

Why Was the Harvest so Big?

The 2023 harvest was the result of a number of favourable weather factors over the last 18 months starting with very warm weather in July 2022 which enabled good bud formation for this season. This was followed by no frost this Spring and a very warm June which ensured a really good fruitset (pollination) leading to a large yield. Strangely, the warm but wet July and August resulted in large plump bunches and the warm September weather helped ripen the fruit. In addition, the longer than normal fruit growing season has allowed great flavour development and the warm nights in September means that in general acidity levels in the grapes were a little lower than normal.

But How Does it Taste?

Its early days yet but the initial tasting of the pressed juice is very exciting and in particular, this is the first year we have had enough Pinot Blanc to press it on its own which we are all excited to taste. If you would like to have the opportunity to taste some of the new wine in the tank, once again during November we are hosting tours and tastings at the winery – please look at the website for details and booking.

Once again, a huge thanks at the end of an amazing vineyard year. We now have a few weeks to recover and clear up before it all starts again with pruning!

Mike and Hilary

Greyfriars Vineyard Owners

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