Whereas I just left the sunny Languedoc in full swing, with the majority of their harvest safely in tanks, things are only just starting to get going in the UK on the grape harvest for the 2015 wine vintage.
Grapes need a whole lot of sunshine hours to ripen, and although the UK days are long, as you’ll know, the sunshine can be a little minimal. In the hot and dry regions of the world, grapes have no problem ripening, but in cooler climates like the UK, we’re reliant on a long growing season to maximise the grape ripeness to develop the sugars and flavours in the grape to produce enough alcohol. A long, warm September like we’re experiencing definitely helps to ripen off the grapes and vineyards around the South East of England are now beginning to plan their 2015 harvest.
If fancy getting involved with harvesting at a vineyard, look no further to many of the vineyards here in the UK who are on the look out for volunteers or others selling tickets for those less green fingered amongst you who fancy more of an ‘experience’. Of the 400+ vineyards in the UK, there’s loads of harvesting opportunity to be had, but here are a handful of the ones that I’m familiar with in the South East, all producing excellent wine and guaranteed to show you a great day out however hard you fancy working;
Chafor Wine Estate, Gawcott, Buckinghamshire, MK18 4HT
Be part of the CHAFOR Grand Harvest 2015 on 17th and/ or 18th October. Tim Chafor heads up this family owned vineyard set in the midst of the Buckinghamshire countryside, not far from Oxford and Milton Keynes. Their first release of still wines was their 2013 vintage, featuring award winning Bacchus, Chardonnay and Rosé, their sparkling wine is yet to be released.
Perks include lunch (FYI, Tim has a pizza oven and does jolly fine pizzas!), wine to take home and a VIP invitation to the Grand Harvest Supper.
Book your place now: firstname.lastname@example.org or call Tim on: 07973 892427
Oaken Grove Vineyard, Fawley, Henley-on-Thames, Buckinghamshire (just over the Oxfordshire border).
We helped owner, Phil Rossi, with his bountiful harvest on a beautiful sunny, autumnal day last year, picking his Bacchus grapes. I say we, because it was a family affair and the kids came too and were surprisingly, not too annoying. This year, he hopes that harvesting will start on 17th October for the Bacchus and the following weekend for the Pinot Noir, so drop him a Facebook message or email to get involved. He’ll also be at the Perfect Friday Wine Tasting afternoon in Marlow on 10th October, if you wanted to have a chat before you sign up! [You can buy Oaken Grove Benham Blush here]
Last year, we were fed a well earned hog roast with all the trimmings, tasted newly released wines and got sent home with a bottle. A fabulous day to spend one of those last days of summer around Henley.
Dropmore Vineyard, Littleworth Common, Buckinghamshire, SL1 8NF
Perhaps Maidenhead’s closest vineyard, the Dropmore harvest is a real family affair. With just 3 acres of vines, this is as boutique as they come and the delicious Bacchus White and Pinot Blush have both won awards. Owned by John Petersen, drop him a line if you fancy lending a helping hand. Harvest starts on 11th October and will continue throughout October. Word on the street has it that Dropmore offer the best harvest catering going! [You can buy Dropmore Vineyard Bacchus here]
John will also be at the Perfect Friday Wine Tasting afternoon in Marlow on 10th October, so he can check you out before he lets you near the vines!
Bluebell Vineyard Estates, Furners Green, East Sussex, TN22 3RU
More of an experience than a horticultural work out, Bluebell are hosting a day in the vines on Saturday 17th October, 10-3pm. Spend the morning hand-harvesting grapes followed by a delicious lunch overlooking the vineyard, then a tutored tasting of their fabulous sparkling wines, made onsite, led by wine maker Kevin Sutherland. Also, taste the grape juice, fresh off the press (which, is sooooo tasty and described to me as ‘the nectar’ by one Saint-Chinian vineyard worker). [You can buy Bluebell Vineyard Estates Brut Rosé and Seyval Blanc here]
Call 01825 791561 or email wineinfo@bluebellvineyard.