The climax of all the hard work in the vineyards comes with harvest in October. During the four weeks in the run up to harvest, the winemaking and viticulture team spends time in all the vineyard sites monitoring the ripening process of the various grape varieties. This is carried out by taste and by laboratory analysis. When optimum levels of acidity and sugar are reached, the start date of harvest and the site order of picking can be determined. It really is just like the Del Monte advert. The man from Chapel Down, he say "Yes!"
Harvest is a stressful and exhausting time for all the teams as we try and ensure that the pickers, bins and equipment are in the right place at the right time. Harvest lasts for up to six weeks. All picking is done by hand and this ensures that any imperfect fruit is rejected whilst still on the vine - a level of quality control essential for premium wine and the maintenance of high wine standards. All fruit is brought within 8 hours of picking to the winery at Tenterden, where the alchemy, science and art of the winemaking process begins.
Some of the grape varieties we use to make our award winning wines
(Silvaner x Riesling) x Müller-Thurgau
Named after the Roman God of wine. An aromatic crossing with Riesling parentage that has only been around since the 1970s. We have 3 plots of Bacchus within the vineyards at Tenterden planted between 1987 and 2007. Bacchus grapes have a strong and distinctive aromatic flavour, with high sugar content. Some wines produced from this grape develop good New World Sauvignon Blanc characters or when riper, tend towards Sancerre. When planted at the Tenterden site on Wealden clay Bacchus exhibits gunflint aromas which we only see on this site with this cultivar. Only half an hour away at Lamberhurst vineyard which is slightly cooler, flavours of freshly cut grass and citrus dominate. Whereas in the warmest of vineyard sites the same variety will give the ripe and tropical flavours that can be found in our Bacchus Reserve. This is one of the UK's most widely planted white varieties and is more than capable of producing world class wines, as demonstrated by Chapel Down over the last 10 years.
Grown largely as a fundamental ingredient of Champagne, plantings of Chardonnay are on the increase for the production of English sparkling wine. At Tenterden our 2004 plantings gave their first fruit in 2007 and we have planted approximately 30 acres of both still and sparkling clones at Kits Coty which were harvested for the first time in 2010. We have seen excellent results with Chardonnay from the Kits Coty vineyard microclimate; rich characters and very high ripeness, grapes for still wine were picked with 13% potential alcohol in 2011, almost unheard of in the UK. Grown on chalk like this we see finesse and minerality in the sparkling wines and generous textural aspects to our still wines.
One of the most ancient and noble of all grape varieties. It is the classic grape for red Burgundy and Champagne but is also an important element of sparkling wines in England. It is at home in the English climate and some excellent quality Chapel Down red wines have been made with this variety. About half the clones grown at Tenterden are Dijon clones grown specifically for reds. At Kits Coty the majority of Pinot Noir is grown with sparkling wine production in mind. Because of the thin-skinned nature of this variety it tends to yield lightly coloured wines, especially in the cooler English climate. The lower temperatures we see in our vineyards in comparison to Burgundy however do preserve the more aromatic end of this variety's spectrum of flavours. In our still wines expect to find juicy raspberry and violet flavours, and in the sparkling examples the classic aromas we tend to see are of strawberries and cream. This variety also makes up the majority of our still rosé which is where flavours of soft red summer berries is a key component.