On a recent visit to Biddenden Vineyard in Kent, UK I had a chance to watch the harvesting and pressing of some of the bumper 2018 crop of English grapes. 2018 is shaping up to be one of the best years to date in English Wine.
The grapes have had almost perfect growing conditions this year with a long hot summer and are looking very impressive.
The wine harvest 2018 started early at Biddenden with the Ortega starting to be picked in late August rather than mid September.
Most of the Ortega is already in tanks with the remaining bunches being left to turn into raisins, possibly for a sweet wine depending upon how they develop over the next 5 weeks or so.
The other grape varieties differ greatly in colour. The image below shows Pinot Noir on the vine, just picked and then on the conveyor belt into the wine press where it stays for 2 hours and is pressed gently using the champagne method.
Pinot Noir is only lightly pressed to make English Sparkling wine. It will take about 5 years before this vintage is available to buy.
From approximately 2 tonnes of Pinot Noir grapes Biddenden will get 1000 litres for sparkling wine with the remainder used for rosé/still wine.
Other grape varieties
Walking around the Biddenden vineyard there are grapes everywhere in lots of different colours. Dornfelder is a dark red grape with big bunches of large, even grapes (see image below). This grape is used in several different wines including Gribble Ridge Rosé and Gribble Ridge Dornfelder.
Gamay Noir is also a red grape (noir meaning black in French) but with smaller grapes on smaller bunches (see below). Gamay is used to make Gribble Bridge Sparkling Rosé.
Some grape varieties are a cross between red and white grapes. Schonburger is a Pinot Noir x Chasselas and Muscat Hamburg variety originally created in Germany. Being of a northern European origin it is well suited to our climate. This grape is used to create a soft, full and fruity white wine, Schonburger 2016.
Scheurebe is a white wine grape originally from Germany and traditionally used for sweeter wines, however some people are now using them for drier white wines. 10% Scheurebe is used in Gribble Ridge Sparking white.
As the wine harvest is early this year, some bottling is likely to take place in December and will be publicised on social media and on the Biddenden website www.biddendenvineyards.com. All wines can also be purchased online or from the Biddenden Vineyard shop.