The Year and Harvest 2011

Chardonnay Hush Heath Kent 30/4/11
Chardonnay- Hush Heath, Kent. 30/4/11

As years go 2011 goes down as another strange one in vineyard. A warm and very dry spring encouraged early budburst and growth. By the end of April the vines were 2-3 weeks ahead of a typical year( I usually reckon bud-burst occurs around the 17th of April in this part of Kent). The inevitable duely happened and on the 4th of  May a frost hit. At Hush Heath the temperature fell to -1.6C, the event only lasted one and a half hours but the damage was done.The frost affected vineyards across Kent and Sussex, lower and more sheltered sites suffered most. Chardonnay was the biggest victim followed by Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier, perhaps by virtue of being  a tardy few days behind its more noble cousins appeared relatively unscathed .

Frosted Chardonnay

Flowering seemed to go on for ever, conditions were pretty poor, cold, windy, dull and wet for the most part. Some varietals seemed to suffer more than others, Rondo, Pinot Noir particulaly as you moved West from Kent into Sussex and Hampshire, Chardonnay generally set better .


Close monitoring of the grapes revealed quite early on that in spite of the rather dull summer and indifferent and prolonged flowering harvest would be early and high in sugar in the South East. Sparkling wine makers do not want grapes too high in sugar preferably not  much above 81-82 oc – 11% .

In Sussex I harvested Rondo and Reichensteiner at 82 and 77 on the 16th of September with Reic and Huxelrebe coming off the next day at Nutbourne with similar sugars.

Harvest commenced at Hush Heath on the 29th September with the picking of the Pinot Noir from Old Orchard Oast (2002 plantings)  sugars were 79oc TA 13.9 . In 2008 these grapes were harvested on the 20th October with sugars of 72oc and 13g/l acid . Yields were down due to frost and relatively poor flowering, low bunch weigths were also a feature of the harvest.

Some of the Burgundy clones had reached 90 oc /12.4% at this point.

Pinot Noir from Bourne vineyad(Sandhurst) 84oc /ta 11.3 on the 3rd of October quickly followed. Pinot Noir for a small red ferment (colour) came in on the 11th at 85 and 10.1.

Chardonnay from Hush Heath was picked between the 4and 5th October at between 79-81 oc  ta 12-13g/l . (2008 – picked on the 27th October 68oc 14g/l acid) . Sandhurst Chardonnay between the 6th and 11th – 80-84oc 12g/l acid.

The bulk of the Pinot Meurnier was picked on the 6th of October sugar 81 oc TA 10.6.

The harvest was to all intents and purposes over by the 11th of October, a brief foray into the vineyard on the 18th netted 600kg of secondaries (73oc 16.1g/l acid). This was followed by a frost and that was that.

In all 35 tons were pressed at Hush Heath, the quality was fantastic, sugars and acids perfect, no disease at all . A pretty unique harvest with no enrichment taking place in the winery at all.

Across the country yields on the whole were pretty poor, some vineyards picking less than 1/4 of last years admittedly large harvest.







Christmas at Nutbourne Vineyard

The weekend 10th and 11th December will be a good time to visit Nutbourne Vineyards and stock up on some decent wine. Tours, wine-tasting, refreshments and wine-makers all on hand. If you fancy going give Bridget a ring on 01798 815196  or email  . Wines on taste will include the Sussex Reserve 2010, Bacchus 2010, Blush 2010 and Nutty 2007 , all silver medal winners in English Wine of the Year Competition .

Three Wine Men ?

Not quite sure what this is all about but I am off to Lords on Saturday 3rd December to do a bit for brand support for the Balfour 2008 which will be on taste at the Sparklingenglishwines stand. The website is not much help and I am none the wiser except that the Matt Lucas lookalike is in fact Olly Smith.

Balfour 2008

Most of you (anyone I know)will have missed the Balfour 2007 which almost exclusively went to British Airways (First Class) over the summer, as far as I know never reviewed but very well recieved by the mile high club. Step forward the Balfour 2008. Like the 07, a high malic year and not a massive vitage. A relatively late harvest, The Pinot Noir and Meurnier were picked on the 20/10/08  at 72Oc- 13g/l acid and 66Oc -12g/l  respectively. The chardonnay was picked on the 27th October at 68 and 14g/l . Very much pinot dominated, the blend breakdown is 53% PN, 38% CHA and 9% PM.

Made by Owen Elias of(ex) Chapel Down fame, the Balfour is always a vintage wine and always made without malolatic fermentation giving a fresh youthful characteristic to the early releases. The 07 an 08 vintages have and are being disgorged at the new state of the art winery at Hush Heath. They are corked with a mytig cork(an expensive technical cork) which are guaranteed taint free and allow longer post disgorging time on the cork(now 3-6months before release). This is now giving a more complex, interesting and harmonious wine.

The 2008 is an old fashioned pale salmon pink, the mousse is the most sustained of any sparkling wine that I have known, both in the glass and mouth, a very fine and sustained bead,  creamy and not at all aggressive on the tongue . The acidity is high but is balanced by a well integrated dosage of 12g/l.
The nose is clean and Pinot dominated, slightly peppery with hints of all-spice. The palate shows crisp but balanced acidity, herby with masculine hints of red fruit and plum and an attractive citrus finish.

Usually recommended as an an aperitif, this wine is actually a fantastic food wine and can handle and compliment the most robust meals likely to be served up in Champagne, steak, game, sausages and kidneys.