English winemakers praise ‘near perfect’ conditions in heatwave

English winemakers praise ‘near perfect’ conditions in heatwave

Decanter.com spoke to English winemakers about this year’s vintage, following the heatwave across the UK…

Several English winemakers have said that a summer heatwave has provided ‘near perfect’ conditions so far in 2018, helping to bury memories of damaging spring frosts in 2017 and also a cold start to this year.

‘The flowering has been completely uninterrupted and early, the bunches look superb, and the future warm forecast is very promising,’ Frazer Thompson, CEO of Kent based winery Chapel Down, told Decanter.com.

‘This year we’ve had the right weather, in the right order – which doesn’t often happen. The sustained warm weather after a period of rain and colder months, means the quality of grapes on the vine is unprecedented.’

Excessive heat can be problematic in vineyards; if too hot, grapes can struggled to retain acidity and subsequent wines can have an over-abundance of ‘jammy’ flavours. Prolonged high temperatures can also cause vines to shut down, effectively suspending the growing season.

Acidity is an important quality in sparkling wines, but English winemakers have been very positive about the vintage this year so far.

‘Higher day time temperatures coupled with wet spring soil profiles were near perfect conditions for vine growth in spring,’ said Cherie Spriggs, winemaker at Nyetimber, in Sussex.

There is still plenty of the growing season left, and weather during the harvest period will be crucial in deciding the end result.

‘At the moment it looks as though we are going to have a fantastic harvest in terms of both quality and quantity,’ said Simon Bladon, owner of Jenkyn Place, in Hampshire.

‘There has been very little rain and no wind during this crucial flowering period, which is as near to perfect as it gets!’ said Charles and Ruth Simpson, from Simpsons Wine Estate in Kent.

Whereas in other parts of the UK, there has been concern about the lack of rain, this does not appear to be a problem for the vineyards.

‘We will do a few things differently this year as a result of the lack of rainfall in the vineyard but it is England – it will rain soon!’ said Spriggs.

‘It would now be useful to receive a little rain, but we are not currently concerned due to the moisture retaining qualities of our chalk terroir’ said Simpson.

A strong vintage is particularly welcome as the weather last year meant a small crop for English vineyards.

‘Regardless, it is looking like a fantastic and much need harvest after the frost England suffered last year,’ said Simpson, who lost 60% of their crop last year.

‘We had taken the precaution of purchasing two huge frost fans from Turkey.’

‘Last year’s crop was very small and this one should be three times the size of 2017 and probably about twice the size of an average harvest,’ said Bladon.

Cold Spring

However, the UK was hit by a cold Spring this year, with snow storms called ‘the beast from the east.’

‘The cold spells earlier this year all happened when the vines were still dormant so they did not cause any problems,’ said Spriggs.

‘We had a few sleepless nights from cold spells in late April and early May this year but the frost conditions were not so bad – and the delayed budburst from earlier cold spells did assist in mitigating this damage.’

‘As an industry we rely very heavily on the weather, it’s our greatest influence and is totally out of our control. This heatwave is the best we’ve seen in 18 years’ said Thompson.

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