Life on a Vineyard by Mark Darley
Two brilliant lunches catered for by our great friend, the superb chef Jane Staunton. Both of these were Ladies Lunches, the first was an open invitation event that could easily have turned into a “lunch and dinner” event and the second for the ladies associated with an invitation only club, LGS, for which All Angels is the exclusive supplier of sparkling wine. Given how variable the weather has been this summer we were incredibly lucky to have glorious sunshine on both occasions so the vineyards could be seen at their best.
Our first “Safari Tour, Tasting and Supper” with Henry & Joe’s – again, very lucky with the weather. Chef Henry presented the group with a huge selection of deluxe canapés and bites from the kitchen at All Angels and we previewed our new Classic Cuvée 2014 Long Aged on Lees. The group was then taxi’d from All Angels to Henry & Joe’s restaurant for a main course and pudding round a communal table (same style as we have at All Angels).
We’ve met some wonderful people and made a lot of new friends through all the Tours and Tastings we’ve done: we normally allow
75 – 90 mins but quite often they run on!
We only have two major events left this season and I’m afraid the 13th November Pre-Christmas Henry & Joe’s Tasting Menu event is sold out and has a long wait list.
So, the only event for which we have spaces is the “That’s a wrap Sunday Lunch” catered for by Henry & Joe’s on 31st October. Email asap to email@example.com if you’d like to join in the fun.
On the wine front, the big news was the launch of All Angels Classic Cuvée 2014 Long Aged on Lees to huge acclaim. It is the same blend composition as the original Classic Cuvée 2014 (now sold out) but has been left on lees for over 6 years (rather than just under 3) which is quite a rarity for Champagne and Sparkling Wine. Leaving the wine on lees for that long gives it real richness and complexity: you’ll be able to taste this wine and the powerful green fruit and brioche flavours after your glass is empty. This means it also goes extremely well with rich food.
We will shortly be releasing our 2016 Sparkling Rosé (although we still have a few of the 2014 bottles left) – and it will have a new label which we will reveal along with the wine itself in the next few weeks. We are also working on our 2017 Sparkling Rosé which has an almost copper, rose gold hue to it – we settled on a dosage level last week and it will now be riddled and disgorged before labelling and leaving to settle after all that rushing around for a bit.
We have recently taken the very exciting and key step of joining forces with Alliance Wine – one of the UK’s most dynamic wine companies – who will act as our distributor to the on-trade primarily inside the M25 and in the other big city areas so you should start seeing All Angels more regularly in the restaurants, bars and clubs when you next go up to “the Smoke”.
Vineyard work has kept us very, very busy. This year has been one of the most challenging for vineyards everywhere with the frosts, then the wet, then cool weather interspersed with heat. The hot and wet weather combination has led to perfect conditions for mildew and it has hit the whole country very badly with it this year – as have many of the French vineyards. We’re hearing reports of some vineyards already taking the decision that they not harvest this year. We had escaped it till recently but last week we spotted the signs so all scheduled work stopped immediately and we then quickly raised the wires (downy typically starts at the top of the vine), trimmed the tops and sides of all 130 rows at the Church Farm Vineyards and sprayed a compound that we hope will arrest it (we were fortunate to have some in stock from last year as there is none to be had now from the suppliers). Time will tell.
t’s funny how the mildew doesn’t strike the weeds down though… and many hours have been spent going up and down the rows over all 6 hectares (that’s just under 15 acres) with different weeding machines (one failed at one stage and we lost 40 vines – my language was colourful that day). We even finished off one of the vineyards using hoes (works well and is a good cardio exercise if anyone wants a change from the gym). The Rondo is now in veraison so I think we will be putting up bird nets around that variety in a couple of weeks or so (volunteers please…).
Overall, we should have a better harvest than 2020 and 2019 but it is a very tricky year with some bunches of grapes having huge berries but also very tiny berries – it is clear that berries form the same vines could ripen at very different times so it will be a late harvest. That will present its own challenges with the risk of botrytis and other diseases. I’m not complaining really as it is a privilege to be able to work outside and observe nature in all her kind and cruel glory through the seasons, especially in this beautiful part of the world where the scenery hasn’t changed in centuries.
A friend of mine from my previous life said to me the other day: “Presumably this is the time of year when you can just sit back and enjoy the fruits of your work?” I chose not to comment.
Keep well, keep following and look forward to seeing you soon.