I had a knock on the door last week and answered to a gentleman who said he had an issue with his vines and wanted my opinion. 

My chest swelled as I knew I had made it: finally acknowledged as one of the UK’s top viticulturists this was the first of a long line of lesser viticulturists who would be knocking at my door for advice. 

Quickly putting to one side the thought that we might finally make money through advisory work, I sat down with to discuss his concerns.  “I bought two vines and we have them against a south facing wall in tubs…”  Chest deflated – “Gardeners’ Question Time” has never been a must-listen for me.

  I was able to help him out all the same: the reason why is white grape variety was going red was because … it was actually a red grape variety.

All Angels with Mark DarleyTake a look at the picture of our Rondo .

  It shows a couple of challenges we have this year. 

Everyone is saying what a great year it is going to be but privately we all have similar issues.

On first look all seems great – nice bit of veraison going on there: 2 weeks earlier than normal so an early harvest. 

But look closer and you’ll notice while some berries are fully developed, there are a fair number of small berries that are well behind so the challenge will be just when do we harvest: not too late for the developed and not too early for the smaller ones. 

Fortunately, this seems only an issue in the Rondo: all other varieties are progressing evenly. 

Look closer still and you may see a little bit of scorching from the sun.  We deliberately left leaf stripping late this year given the heat and sun but maybe we should have avoided it altogether: difficult to know as when the rains do come, we will want a good through-flow of air to reduce the risk of disease.

 

So how good a season is it going to be? 

Still early days and I’m not counting our bottles before we press.  All the star signs are aligning nicely – with the exception of Aquarius who’s clearly dropped his water jug somewhere along the way, Pisces knows where! 

My guess is that the yield will be about the same as last year (which was up 70% on the previous year) but the quality will be off the charts.  This seems to be the general consensus among the group of producers I chatted to last week.  Sugars will be high but acid likely low: we want good acidity to get that style of fresh orchard fruit that we love but we have that covered as we’ve got some great reserve from 2021 that we can use, so I’m relaxed about the low acidity. 

Who is our new winemaker?

Meet our new winemaker, Rob MacCulloch MW – the man who is now responsible for helping us turn our wonderful grapes into superb wine.  Most recently Rob worked for Hawkes Bay in NZ but has experience from Germany to Australia to the States – 20 years of experience and is one of the very few Masters of Wine.  We are in daily dialogue about the vineyards, yields, styles (of wine that is) – Rob is a massively knowledgeable guy and I know we are going to have great fun working with him.  

So with all the quality grapes we have this year, our thoughts are already turning to what we can make.  I’m currently thinking along the following lines.  A 100% Rondo sparkling rosé – the 2016 we produced has just been so popular especially with sommeliers who love its smokey Armagnac nose and rich fruit with subtle tannin flavours and if we have enough Rondo left over, we may bow to the demand for another sparkling red (Angels 340 style).  A blanc de blanc from the Church Vineyard (release date likely 2034…) and a classic cuvée.  BUT we have a lot of Pinot Gris this year so I’m thinking maybe we try something special with that?  It’s all very exciting.

What is our approach to winemaking?

We are asked more and more about what style we are aiming for when blending and producing All Angels.  

We want to produce a wine that stands out from the others as subtly different, something you won’t be able to find elsewhere.  There are so many producers making the same style of wine that there seems little point us just adding to the same barrel – let’s aim for something different.  That’s really why we’ve not grubbed up our Rondo (which I did once think to do).  Only 1.4% of the grapes grown in this country are Rondo and almost all are used for still reds – but the uniqueness of Rondo in a sparkling rosé makes it stand out from the usual rosé blends which is why the 2016 has been such a hit with sommeliers in particular.

This is also why we love producing single vintage wines.  Each year the yield is different so the different volume of grapes you have to blend changes.  Result: each vintage is different and if you don’t believe me, try the 2016 sparkling rosé alongside the 2017 sparkling rosé: massively different with the 2017 being more rounded and a knockout with food of all types especially bbq, even more so than the 2016.

It also means that we have something for everyone.  As those who’ve done a tour & tasting recently will know, there is an age demographic as to who prefers the 2016 sparkling rosé and who prefers the 2017!  Only true 70% of the time but pretty interesting.

So do you water the vines?

No – we’re lucky: our soil retains enough water and the roots of the vines are so deep that we don’t need to do so.  Just as well given how much water they consume each day.

But I’d like some rain now, please: we are due to get some anytime now.  As I sit here, I was expecting it this morning but none now until at least tomorrow evening.  Then of course, we’ll all start worrying about the berries splitting or disease.  The last time it was this hot in 1976 apparently there was a lot of botrytis (not sure what “a lot” is as there weren’t many vineyards then).  Always something eh?  Never happy eh?

So what can we look forward to?

We’re releasing All Angels Classic Cuvée 2015 in mid-October so look out for a “Save the date” and an invitation to the launch dinner.  More about the wine later.

Two dinners between now and end November, one with the wonderful Jane Staunton and one with Henry (even if Henry & Joe’s has closed).

A Christmas wreath making morning followed by a wine lunch again catered for by Jane.

Possibly the release of our 2018 Sparkling Rosé (trials completed beginning of Sept but a glimpse of what it looks like above).

We only have two Tour & Tasting dates left 24 September and 1 October and 24th is pretty full already so please book in asap if you don’t want to wait till next Spring.

In the words of that sweet departed musical icon, Olivia Newton-John, “Let’s get fizzical” (they got the spelling wrong on the track didn’t they??).

Keep chilled (you and the All Angels),

Mark

 

All Angels
All Angels
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