Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness,
Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;
Conspiring with him how to load and bless
With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eves run;
(To Autumn, Keats – 1819)
Well, times have changed and there’s not a lot of conspiring going on by nature to load and bless the vines with fruit this year! We’ve got more than our fair share of grapes on the vines, however, and it’s just a case of them ripening in time.
I’m writing this 202 years, almost to the day, after Keats wrote that great poem. The weather in the three hours that I’ve been up is pretty much a microcosm of the weather for the whole summer: still for one minute, clouds racing through the air the next; warm and humid; sunny and then downpours. It will be a late harvest for us – as for most vineyards – probably around the last week of October. Vineyards are going into inverse bragging about how late they have harvested in the past – 23rd November is the latest I’ve heard so far. Talking to one winery today, they were expecting their first harvest receipt of the year today (27 September) compared to this time last year when they had received at least half of everything.
The trouble with late harvests is that the longer you leave it, the more exposed to disease the fruit becomes and ripening slows down – we could do with a few more weeks of sun and heat but that aint hapenning. And then there is the picking team. The group we use has been able to call on 130 pickers in previous years but a combination of Brexit and Covid means that the team is down to 60 and everyone will want to pick at pretty much the same time: we may well be calling for help!
So, it’s been a challenging year but if you’re crAzY enough to grow grapes in England, you have to accept that at least one in five years will be a tough to disasterous year. It seems the same is becoming more true in France as well – after the years of abuse we have been giving Nature, Nature is giving it back in spades with climate chaos.
We expect this means that the wines from 2021 will generally be characterised by high acidity or a fair amount of malolactic fermentation and higher dosages. Our sugar levels are not far from where they were this time last year, however, so that may not be the case for All Angels.
Thoughts are already turning to next year: the broken frost fan is due for imminent repair; we’ve a meeting with the frost oven supplier to see what design changes they plan; next year’s bougies have been ordered and paid for; propane prices have gone up; we’ve just erected a big barn by the new vineyard; the new vineyard is having some drainage installed as is the 5 acre site where we will be planting a cider apple orchard in November / December; and the wetland wildlife ponds are being dug in a couple of weeks. The new “tasting area” by the large pond at Church Farm is coming on well and looking good for lazy afternoon quaffing.
Outside the vineyards, we’ve been carrying on the Tours and Tastings for which interest is increasing all the time: next year we will run tours with more than one group to meet demand (we haven’t done that much before due to Covid distancing). All the All Angels events at the Party Barn for the rest of this year have been sold out with a wait list so we will definitely arrange more for next year.
More and more local establishments are giving us their support and in the last 2 weeks you can now find us at The Vineyard, The Great Shefford, Bucklebury Farm so don’t forget to look out and ask for a glass of All Angels when you next visit one of these.
Right now there are reports of fuel shortages and general shortages for Christmas. Although we are going to run out of the 2014 Sparkling Rosé shortly and the Classic Cuvée 2014 Long Aged on Lees is proving extremely popular (sales overtaking that of the Sparkling Rosé since its release), we should have enough stock especially when the 2016 Sparkling Rosé is released (even though that is limited in amount). And we continue to deliver for free. If there is a real fuel shortage, I was told earlier this year how to turn red diesel into normal diesel and all you need is a cat: don’t worry (i) no cat is hurt or contaminated in the process and (ii) we’d never try it anyway…