2021: A Year In Review

Fiona Shiner, Founder

2021 was an East/West divide from the outset, with the East suffering higher than usual rainfall in both the winter and the summer seasons, while we in the West watched the rains which plagued other regions as if from under an invisible umbrella. The frostiest April on record kept vineyard teams on the alert. The summer prevailing South Westerlies gave way to winds from the North and North East. It was a summer of chaos as far as weather forecasters were concerned. The rain and overcast conditions during much of the summer meant increased disease pressure and downy mildew hit the South East with a vengeance. In the South West, mildew was less of an issue and for vineyards that had avoided losses due to the frosty spring, the later than usual harvest gave yields which were reasonable and ripe.

 

Growing Degree Days: April – June 2021

 

Growing Degree Days: April – October 2021

 

Winter Pruning

As our vines mature, pruning is becoming quicker. The structure of the vine in now in place making the important cutting decisions simpler. The young vines planted in 2019 are still a work in progress and I was pleased to see the trellis finally going up to support them. This was a gargantuan task of installing circa 5000 wooden posts in our stony ground at Woodchester, each hole had to be rock spiked before the posts could be knocked in to the depth we needed.

Spring Planting

A tough decision was made to grub up one of our clones of Pinot Noir, which was extremely low yielding and replace it with the Pinot Noir clone next door which had proved its worth. The vines themselves were strong and healthy which made it all the more difficult to pull them up. Growing grapes in a cool climate is challenging and every vine has to count. However, I have left a few of the original clone in place, to see if there comes a time when this clone will be more viable. We are learning all the time.

Budburst

It was a slow start to a challenging year. Budburst was late due to a cold and frosty April… the frostiest since 1961. Our new sencrop temperature sensors were invaluable in alerting the vineyard team to frosty conditions and the bougies (anti frost candles) were lit in the early hours of 6 mornings between the 4th April to the 4th May to protect the vines from frost. Only a very limited amount of damage occurred. The lowest temperature recorded during this time was at our Convent Field at Woodchester at minus 4°C. To put this in context, in Burgundy temperatures dropped to minus 7°C on the same morning and some vineyards lost up to 80% of their first growth.

Flowering

Due to the cold April, budburst was late and May saw development/growth at least 3 weeks behind the 2020 season. Growing Degree Days (GDD) in the first half of the growing season were well below the average (see below) and we were all wondering when the season would finally get underway. The timely mini heat wave in July saved flowering and the fruit set was surprisingly good.

Veraison

The weather forecast promised many heatwaves over the summer, most of which were no shows. The lacklustre August was overcast with very little sunlight. The rain that plagued the SE and other regions for much of the summer meant increased disease pressure and downy mildew hit the South East with a vengeance. We were fortunate to miss most of the rain and were not affected by mildew.

Veraison finally started at the end of August. We were all a bit nervous about harvest 2021. At the beginning of September, it was clear that the harvest would start later than normal and the grapes needed a lot more sun and warmth to ripen.

Harvest

Fortunately, nature has a way of compensating and the warm and sunny days in September and October saved the day. It was then a waiting game as we tested sugars and acids on a regular basis to determine when to pick. We netted vines and put up defences against the badgers and other wild life. Harvest finally started 3 weeks later than 2020 on the 26th September. It was an intense harvest with a session of picking for 12 days without a break mid harvest. Nerves were tested with some intervals of heavy rain, but the decision to let the grapes hang as long as possible has paid off in terms of quality, aromas and flavours of the 2021 fruit . Harvest finished on the 2nd November.

It may have been a difficult year but the wines in tank are tasting very promising with some intense flavours and aromas and we look forward to sharing them with you.


From the winery...

Jeremy Mount, Winemaker

The start of the new year is always a very busy time in the winery, we’re gearing up for the first round of bottling which will be the second week in March.

Due to the decent harvest we had in 2021, this year we’re bottling approximately 55,000 still wines. The pre bottling sequence of operations are as follows:

Blending the combined tanks for the different wines then once combined checking the protein and tartrate stability. Once stable, this is followed by filtration, which is done under pressure through diatomatious earth (extremely fine inert clay). Following this and around 2 weeks before bottling I do a full pre bottling analysis to check all key areas of analysis are within the set parameters. (SO2, Acidity, Sugars, proteins, bi tartrate crystals)

Other items that need to be ordered and delivered to the winery are - a lot of bottles (55,000) closures (screw caps), front and back label, boxes and pallets.

It’s all a logistical challenge, especially at the moment with the current lack of delivery date reliability.

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