Amongst ourselves, and to some winemaking colleagues, we said we might not make it. Many didn’t make it this year. There were a myriad of different challenges and anxieties to overcome and the feeling from November to April was that at any point the crop could be lost. This season more than any other we were ever focused and attentive to what the vineyard needed in response to the incredible weather conditions.
For eight years now we have not used any systemic fungicides. It is now six years since we have applied systemic/chemical sprays for weeds – now we use straw mulch and slashing. We do not use systemic applications to eradicate pests. Our focus has been to promote life forces rather than to apply death to control our vineyard environment. This year we held firm to this regime with the exception of two systemic fungicide applications, the first in eight years, to the foliage in December. There was a temptation to used anti botrytis fungal sprays on the ripening fruit but we had done so much work to have an open, clean, airy canopy we felt more comfortable to take the risk than spray. Also, we dropped 30% of the overall crop on the ground before veraison/ripening as we didn’t want fruit on small shoots or in clumps where fruit ripening rates would be compromised and disease would be more likely to develop with bunches touching one another. Also, a larger crop would have required another week to 10 days of ripening and this was clearly not the season to risk exposing the fruit to extra adverse weather events.
As a reward for the hard work April provided some important warm, sunny classic autumnal weather and the flavours and sugars developed beautifully. The pickers were very diligent in removing any fruit not in optimal condition and the quality of the grapes arriving at the winery was quite remarkable. All the pinot noir has been pressed out post fermentation and is resting in barrel. There are still some barrels of chardonnay fermenting. Overall, the volume of wine is very reasonable (30 tonnes from 16 acres/6 hectares) and, whilst clearly early days, the style of the wines looks to be intense and balanced. For this stage the wines are representative of their site and usual style.