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 .
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.