Harvest 2018

by Lizzi Hobcraft October 05, 2018

Harvest 2018

As some of you might already be aware, 2018 is shaping up to be one of the best vintages that English wine makers and vine growers have ever experienced. Summer 2018 saw eight to nine weeks of azure skies and unseasonably high temperatures, much to the delight of our vineyard manager, Sue Osgood.
A good growth season has led many in the UK, as well as on the continent, to harvest a little earlier than usual. In fact, in Champagne they started harvesting on 21st August. Most wine growing regions in Europe are seeing their harvest starting from 1-2 weeks earlier than usual because of the unusually hot summer.
Here at Bolney, we are now twenty-one days into our harvest and finished today! According to Sam Linter, Managing Director and Head Winemaker, “last year we made 120,000 bottles of wine, but this year we are expecting about the 220,000 mark”. This seems to be the picture country wide with most expecting this to be a 'once in a generation' harvest, a vintage to shout about.

Plump Pinot Noir grapes sunning themselves

As you can see from the above pictures, our grapes are looking just ripe-for-the-picking.  Our vineyard and winery team have been checking the crop regularly to obtain optimum acidity and sugar levels, only deciding to harvest when the balance is just right for making the highest quality wine.  All of our harvesting is done by hand to ensure that Bolney wines are of a premium finish.  It is a painstaking process which sees the team working seven days a week for two to three weeks non-stop.  

The crates are filled with whole bunches of beautifully ripe grapes

Once the grapes have been picked and placed into plastic crates, they are loaded up onto the tractor and driven back to the winery.  Unusually, 2018 has seen the best picking conditions.  By now, the ground in-between rows has usually been churned up by the tractor, but it has stayed nice and mud free this year!  Now it's a race against time to get the grapes into the vats to ferment, as they start to slowly deteriorate after picking.  

Our team getting a good work out lifting crates of grapes onto the tractor, ready to be taken to the winery

Therefore, as soon as the grapes are picked they are whisked away to the winery.  Here they are sorted, so that we can get rid of anything we don’t want going into the wine such as leaves and unripe berries.  Then, depending on the style of wine being made, a couple of different processes happen.

Two members of the Bolney team painstakingly picking out the MOG - (Matter Other than Grapes)

For our white wines and rosé, the grapes are pressed, the juice transferred into a vat for settling, and the resulting portion removed to another tank where fermentation can take place.
For our reds it is a little more complicated. First we crush and de-stem the grapes so we can get as much colour and flavour out of them as we can. Some yeast is also added at this stage so that fermentation can begin. After a maceration period, which can be anything from three to seven days, the skins are pressed very gently to release the rest of the juice. The wine can then go on to complete fermentation.
Another difference in making our red wines is that they undergo malolactic fermentation, a process whereby the harsh malic acids in grape juice are turned into a softer lactic acid. This just softens the wine and adds a rich, luxurious mouthfeel to our wines.

Juice from Bacchus grapes being pressed, running into the tray below the press

Of course this is a very simplistic version of the vine to wine process. There are a LOT of man hours, very hard work, love, care and attention that goes into bringing you a bottle of Bolney wine. Once the grapes are pressed, the juice obtained and the fermentation has begun, our winery team really come into their own. What follows is weeks of carefully monitoring the ferment to make sure that everything goes to plan. Then, once the fermentation has completed, the winemaker has to decide whether to age the wine, complete a second fermentation (as in the case of our sparkling wines) or release it straight away for you lucky people to drink. Again all of this is decided by the winemaker, depending on the style of wine they are trying to create.
So let’s raise a glass to our hardworking vineyard and winery team, who are working around the clock to bring you an exceptional 2018 vintage. The labour has only just begun, but boy is it worth it. Cheers!

Lizzi Hobcraft
Lizzi Hobcraft

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