Hand-picked by volunteers, friends and family, 2017 was our 3rd grape harvest. The traditional champagne varieties: Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier and Chardonnay were planted in 2012, some vines are not yet mature. Grape quantity was significantly up versus 2016 especially the Pinot Noir some of which we protected with bird netting. Each year the local conditions throw us new challenges this year more frost and foxes. The fruit has delivered sugar and acid levels well within the required range to make great English Sparkling wine.
The buds on the vines began to swell at the usual time starting in May. Every evening in May and into June we reviewed the weather forecast and when below 6°C with clear skies we took anti-frost measures. This year our fan in a culvert was effective in protecting the Pinot Meunier in the bottom corner. Unfortunately, the Chardonnay at the top of the slope and furthest from the fan was not protected and we lost the majority of the primary buds.
The summer was averagely warm and above averagely wet. Sunshine in June at flowering and September meant that the fruit set was good; the grapes grew well and they ripened nicely. In mid September we thought we may be harvesting up to 2 weeks early, but alas the sunshine levels dropped and we again harvest at the end of October, right up the 31st.
Not all our vines are mature so we have yet to meet our yield objectives, but average bunches per vine, bunch size and grape size increased year on year.
Chardonnay yields were the lowest of the three varieties due to the frost damage. The Pinot Noir yields were the best with 50 crates picked purely from the 21-07 clone. Overall a bumper quantity.
The sugar levels in our Pinot Noir were beautifully high, matching those in the Champagne region. Is Nottinghamshire the next outstanding area for growing Fizz?
Starlings and Foxes
Instead of bird netting we used white hay bale wrap to protect the Pinot Noir 21-07 clone from starlings which either worked very well or we simply didn’t have the starling visitors this year.
We noticed that foxes were plucking grapes from the lowest hanging fruit, however not where there were thistles. Is this a good reason to keep the thistles, I suspect not good enough!
Conclusions and Learnings
2017 was a good year, a big increase in quantity, great sugar and acid levels completed in 4 days of picking. Next year we’ll try some anti-frost measures in the Chardonnay that have been suggested by visitors. Until next season …