25 February 2016:
Thursday 25rd February. The sun is shining, the birds are singing and there are fluffy clouds in the sky! Can this really be it? Is Spring actually around the corner? The daffodils seem to think so and the vineyard team certainly hope so as they are thoroughly fed up with all the wind and rain that have battered them this winter. Of course, there is still some way to go before we can safely say Spring has arrived but these sunnier and calmer days area a welcome relief for the troops out in the vineyard where they have been busy pruning the vines since early January.
In fact, all our established vineyards have been pruned and we are now tying down the canes that have been carefully selected for this season’s buds. We will soon be moving on to our newer sites where the young vines need their gentle prune back to 2 buds. If it stays dry long enough for the ground to firm up we can get the tractors out and begin mulching the pruning’s which are currently laid out in neat rows between the vines. There is definitely a greater sense of anticipation of the coming season as we head towards March and the last of the winter tasks.
02 November 2015:
The sun came out just in time and we were able to enjoy a spectacular harvest period with fantastic grape quality and excellent yields from all our vineyards. Harvest started on Tuesday 29th September and the last grapes arrived at the Winery on Thursday 29th October. It seemed longer than 4 weeks but harvest can often feel like that with so much happening in a relatively short period.
Our partner growers continued to deliver cracking fruit until the end of October, making the most of the fine and warm weather we enjoyed throughout this year’s picking season. Harvest at Chapel Down tend
So, with the wines now busy fermenting in the winery and with the sun setting over the vineyards for another year, the vineyard teams are looking forward to the few quieter weeks before the pruning secateurs come out again…and we start looking forward to 2016.s to take longer than most, as our vineyards have a wide geographical spread across Kent, Sussex and other southern counties, thus exposing them to varied growing and ripening conditions. This provides Josh and the winemaking team with a broader range to blend from adding greater complexity and interest to our wines. That said, our single estate cuvées which came from carefully selected and managed blocks did not disappoint.
2015 Harvest Review from Josh-Donaghay-Spire
Having completed the 2015 harvest, it is reassuring to take stock, taste the wines mid-ferment, and see what potential they have to offer. As always the influence of the weather throughout the growing season was key. Although August was cooler than average, the unseasonably warm, dry and sunny conditions of September resulted in low disease pressure, good ripeness levels, excellent balance of acidity and the development of intense flavours. The 2015 harvest is looking comparable to 2010 and 2013 in style, but of superior quality.
In particular, the breadth of style seen in the 2015 Bacchus is very exciting. We have rich and ripe tropical style wines from our new plantings at Kits Coty, which contrast well with the grassy, more linear flavours of the cooler Lamberhurst site. Chardonnay also performed well with different clones grown on different sites giving us great options for blending both our sparkling and still wines from this varietal. These blending decisions will only be made once all the wines have finished both alcoholic and malolactic fermentation and our incredibly hardworking harvest team move on to their next vintage, but initial tastings indicate that it’ll be another great year for Chapel Down.
29 September 2015:
It’s Tuesday 29th September and harvest has started at last. After the wet and windy weather of August and September we thought this day would never come, but the sun has come out and the grapes are ripe. Despite the rather ordinary summer months, the vineyards and grapes are looking fantastic which is testament to the hard work the vineyard teams have put in this year.
The vine canopies are still green and full of leaf so this late summer sun will be a welcome boost to get the sugars rising higher. We will now pick grapes nearly every day until the end of October when the last of our vineyards will give up their fruit and slip into dormancy for winter. Buts that’s a few weeks away yet and there are rather a lot of grapes to pick first!
06 August 2015:
It’s been over a month since my last blog so I thought I had better update you with progress in the vineyards. Firstly, our new vineyard at Boxley is more or less finished with all the trellis and wires now installed. It is looking fantastic and is such a picturesque site. The new shoots are showing out of the grow tubes too so they are obviously liking it there!
In our established vineyards we experienced perfect flowering weather which arrived on cue during the Wimbledon fortnight. Consistent temperatures in the high 20’s and even into the 30’s meant flowering was uninterrupted and very successful with the resultant fruit-set giving us large bunches of grapes. We have now started the lengthy task of bunch counting and bunch weight assessment (not all of them but a representative sample) so we can estimate the yields from each of our parcels.
Vine canopy and crop management have been a feature too with shoot positioning, bunch-zone leaf removal, crop thinning and shoot tipping all needing to be done at this time of year. These techniques help us to manage the fruit-zone microclimate, crop load and ripening efficiency of the vines. As you can see, it’s a very busy time of year for us in the vineyard – but as long as the sun shines and we get the occasional shower of rain, we don’t mind the hard work…
18 June 2015:
What a difference a month makes in the vineyard! Not only have our established vineyards burst into life and looking green and lush, but we have also seen the creation of a brand new vineyard - our single biggest planting to date.
At Boxley, on the lower slopes of the North Downs, we have just finished planting over 150,000 vines across 82 acres of prime viticultural land. This was a herculean effort by the vineyard team and all those involved who managed to plant all these vines within 3 weeks and in between the rain showers. We will report more on this fabulous new vineyard as it takes shape over the coming months.
Elsewhere, the early shoot growth is being assessed for vigour and fruitfulness so we can decide how we manage the crop-load and canopy this season whilst the grass is having its’ first cut, which always helps show the vineyards off at their best. Fingers crossed for warmer and drier weather now the season is truly up and running.