Harvest 2018: England
With exceptional quality and hefty yields across the board, could 2018 be England’s greatest ever vintage?
A textbook spring followed by England’s hottest summer on record (narrowly beating 1976) has been a great boost to England’s flourishing wine industry. Quality has been comprehensive and widespread, creating a prime opportunity to explore the diversity, and might we even mention regionality, of English wine.
Bibendum buyer Jamie Avenell said, “Consumers and producers alike will be hoping that the summer of 2018 isn’t just a one off. After a slow start, this incredible summer was long, warm, dry and reliable – are we really talking about England?! For English wine the resulting yield was very welcome after the badly frost-affected 2017 vintage. An excellent year for sparkling wine, but perhaps even more exciting for still wine, where the additional ripeness achieved should yield some of the best still wines produced thus far.”
Here is a round-up of the 2018 harvest from some of our English producers:
Coates & Seely enjoyed a near-perfect harvest, according to co-founder Nicholas Coates. “With no late-spring frosts and flowering taking place in Mediterranean-type sunshine, this was capped by an Indian summer during September and the early days of October,” he said.
The result was excellent fruit quality with perfect acidity and sugars, and exceptional flavour. Yields were also strong, although they were careful not to over-crop, and they restricted fruit yields accordingly.
Nicholas concluded: “We are highly confident, even at this early stage, that our wines from 2018 will truly be ones to remember, just as our memories of the glorious summer of 2018 will linger with us for many a year to come…”
A frost-free spring followed by a warm, dry summer and autumn led to an excellent harvest for Litmus Wines. Director and chief winemaker John Worontschak said, “My first vintage in the UK was in 1988 and this season, being my 30th, is the best I have ever seen.”
The Chardonnay and Pinot Noir was picked at full ripeness, with exceptional quality juice and little to no disease pressure. Coupled with high yields, Litmus Wines expects to be making more wines in 2018 than ever before.
John concluded: “2018 will be known for full flavours and lower acidity, and will be at optimal drinking at least two years earlier than normal.”
“Honestly, hand on heart, this is the best crop I have ever seen in my 17 years at Ridgeview, phenomenal!” said Ridgeview vineyard manager, Matt Strugnell.
Perfect weather throughout the year culminated in a September of warm, clear days and cool nights, which were crucial in maintaining acidity levels. The quality of fruit was extremely high, with large bunches of clean fruit, which were very easy to pick. Despite extensive green harvesting, yields were still extremely high, with 560 tons of grapes collected; Ridgeview’s biggest harvest ever.
Winemaker Simon Roberts remarked: “It is unusual for a harvest to have both high yields and incredible quality in both sugar and acidity. The juice is tasting amazing with lots of complexity and length.”
Ridgeview is extremely optimistic about the quality of this year’s wines, which will be released in 2020, when the vineyard will be celebrating its 25th anniversary.
Like much of Europe, Bolney saw a much earlier harvest in 2018 than previous years. Grapes were regularly checked to ensure they’d reached an optimum balance of acidity and sugar before being carefully handpicked and sorted, and sent on to the winery.
The unusually long, hot summer and perfect conditions throughout the rest of the year, meant yields were high. Sam Linter, managing director and head winemaker said, “Last year we made 120,000 bottles of wine, but this year we are expecting to hit the 220,000 mark.”
We took a tour of the vineyards at Coates & Seely with Nicholas and Tristram Coates in the run-up to harvest.