Sunday, 27 October 2013

The 2013 Harvest Begins

Paul, me, Alex, Benoît and JB

The 2013 harvest started yesterday, with a first picking of the Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier grapes for our Silent Pool Rosé. Sugars are a bit low this year, partly because the whole season is a few weeks behind, but also because the grapes have absorbed a lot of the recent rain which has diluted the grape juice a bit. We need fairly high sugars for still wine so we decided to selectively pick some of the very ripest grapes for our still rosé.

This week we are planning to pick the remainder of the pinots which will be used as part of a blend for our quality bubbly. Subject to the weather, the Chardonnay will be picked by the Albury Wine Club, family and friend on the 2nd November.

Overall its looking pretty good this year. Yields are fairly high and quality should good, although we would have liked sugars to have been a bit higher. After the storm tonight we will hopefully get a few rays of sunshine before we pick the remaining crop.

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Harvest date set for Saturday 2nd November

It's been another difficult year on the vineyard, with the recent rain playing havoc with the sugar levels in the grapes. However, subject to the weather (!), Saturday 2nd November is now set to be the harvest day for Albury Wine Club members, family and friends. We probably won't pick if its raining heavily so it might be necessary to move it to the Sunday or Friday.

The day will start at 8.00am for a bit of training and a health and safety briefing. We will break for a sandwich lunch at around 12.30pm and aim to finish by 4.00pm. We can only cater for around 60 people and we already have around 40 registered (priority has been given to Albury Wine Club members). If you would like to be involved, and haven't already registered, please email me at Pickers will be invited to a harvest party later in November.

We could still do with the fruit ripening a bit more, so let's hope we get some sun by the end of next week.

Friday, 18 October 2013

Botrytis - not Noble in the UK

The recent damp weather has resulted in Botrytis on some of the fruit. It's not too bad at the moment, and is mainly restricted to the Seyval, but the later we leave picking the more it will spread. As a rough rule of thumb the level of infection normally doubles every week.

Botrytis, or bunch rot as it is know in viticulture, is a fungus that attacks the fruit as it begins to ripen. It thrives in high humidity and still overcast weather. Fruit that has been damaged by insects or birds is particularly susceptible. In some warmer countries, where drier afternoons follow damp early mornings, Botrytis remains dry and can result in "nobel rot" which is used to produce excellent sweet wines like Sauternes or the Aszu of Tokaji. No such luck in the UK!

As we don't use systemic chemicals, we try and prevent Botrytis by thinning the canopy during the summer (to allow air flow) and also use a bacillus (Serenade) which can reduce early infections. Some botrytis is acceptable in the winery but if it's more than 5-10% it can be a real problem especially for sparkling wine production.

We've been cutting off some infected fruit earlier this week. Hopefully we will be able to pick soon but as sugars are still on the low side and acids a bit high it might be a couple of weeks before the harvest.

Monday, 14 October 2013

Biodynamic Wine and Pied de Cuve

Earlier today we prepared a Pied de Cuve, which is maybe the first time it has ever been made in the UK.

The purpose of a Pied de Cuve is to cultivate the yeasts on the skins of the grapes, so that these naturally occurring yeasts can be used to ferment the wine, rather than a commercial yeast that would normally be added in the winery. Yeasts have their own flavour characteristics and by using yeast from the vineyard we will hopefully produce a wine that has a greater sense of place or terroir. Biodynamic wine can only be produced with naturally occurring yeasts, which is also a requirement of the Natural Wine movement.

To produce a Pied de Cuve some grapes are picked about a week before the harvest is due to take place. They are then crushed by foot (Alex a somewhat less than willing volunteer!) and the whole mix is then put into fermentation bin so that the yeasts on the skins come into contact with the juice.

Hopefully it will start fermenting in a few days time and we will then have to monitor the growth of the yeasts. The resultant Pied de Cuve will be used to kick start the fermentation process for a larger batch of wine.

It's a bit of an experiment this year as its too risky to use this process for the whole production. However, if it works it will be fascinating to taste the difference between the biodynamic and organic Silent Pool Rosés made from exactly the same juice.

Sunday, 6 October 2013

Sulphites in Wine

Sulphur Dioxide in wine has been the subject of much debate in recent years, with many consumers arguing that it contributes to hangovers as well as numerous other health problems, including breathing difficulties for asthmatics, sneezing and swelling of the throat.

All wines contain sulphur dioxide in various forms. Even if it isn't added as part of the wine making process, wine will naturally contain up to 10 milligrams per litre. It is only a legal requirement to state on the label that the wine Contains Sulphites if there is more than ten parts per million in the finished product. This isn't much help to consumers as nearly all wine contains more than 10mg/l.

SO2 is added to wine as an anti-oxident but often more SO2 is added than is necessary. Under EU law up to 160mg/l is allowed for red wines, 210mg/l for white/rose wines and 400mg/l for sweet wines. As a supplier of organic wine we are restricted to 90mg/l for our Silent Pool Rosé but always try to use less.

This year we are aiming to produce a small batch of biodynamic wine with no or very little added sulphur. At the very least we will restrict it to 40mg/l, which is the level generally accepted by the Natural Wine Movement which is gaining momentum throughout Europe and the New World.