Sunday, 16 November 2014
Now that the harvest has finished we are busy tidying up the vineyard and preparing for next year. This of course includes burying our cow horns, filled with dung from a lactating cow, which will form the basis of biodynamic preparation 500.
Biodynamics is an advanced form of organic viticulture. "Bio" means life and "Dynamics" means energy. It's an holistic approach which aims to harmonise nature's elemental forces of the earth (the soil), water (the vines), air (the weather) and fire (the sun). It also recognises that the phases of the moon have a significant influence on plants through gravitational forces.
The cow horns will be dug up in the Spring and the contents dynamised in water. The solution is then sprayed on the vineyard to improve fertility and encourage the natural sense of terrior in the grapes which will help produce great wine.
I know that some of you will think that we are crazy (including Alex's dog Attila!) but many of the great vineyards around the world are convinced by the biodynamic approach, including Romanée-Conti in Burgundy, Coulee de Serrant in the Loire, Beaux Freres in Oregon, Hensche in Australia and Jean-Pierre Fleury in Champagne. I'm just happy to be in such great company.
Wednesday, 5 November 2014
Cow Pat Pit (CPP) is a biodynamic preparation that stimulates soil activity and enhances the humus forming processes of the soil. It also helps to initiate the fermentation of manure and activates organic matter conversion in compost. Research carried out after the Chernobyl disaster showed how it helped reduce the effects of radioactive fallout on land where it was applied.
It is made by mixing cow manure with crushed egg shell and basalt dust, which is then fermented with biodynamic preparations 502-507 for a three to four months in a 12 inch deep pit lined with bricks.
Unfortunately we didn't get around making our own CPP this year, but instead have sourced some from the Biodynamic Association which we have added to a compost pile that will be spread on the vineyard in the next few weeks. This will help address deficiencies some nitrogen and minerals deficiencies which were identified by a petiole analysis earlier in the year. Biodynamics and science working in harmony!
Friday, 24 October 2014
At around 8.30pm on Wednesday we delivered our final load of grapes to our winemakers - 5 tonnes of of lovely clean ripe organic Pinot Meunier which concluded a mammoth picking day of 12 tonnes of grapes, totalling around 28 tonnes of fruit for the harvest overall.
Undoubtedly this has been our best year so far. Unlike the last three years, the weather has been really kind to us; no frosts in the spring, good fruit set in the early summer and lovely warm sunshine in July, some of August, September and early October. The rain even held off, and the sun made a showing, on our picking days.
This has resulted in some really lovely must (grape juice) with good sugars, which is now fermenting at the winery. Overall we will probably be able to make around 6,000 bottles of our Silent Pool Rosé and 18,000 bottles of classic cuvée, blanc de blanc, and rosé quality sparkling wines.
Huge thanks to Alex, Andrea, JB, Peter, Linda and Lucy, as well all of you who have been involved during the year, especially family, friends and wine club members who picked last Saturday.
Time for a bit of a rest, but not for long as we will be bottling Attila's bite in a couple of weeks time and then pruning will start in December! There will be a harvest party on December 13th for wine club members and those involved in the harvest - details to follow soon.
Saturday, 18 October 2014
Last week we picked some of our Chardonnay grapes and crushed them by hand to make a Pied de Cuve. The idea of this is to cultivate naturally occurring yeasts on the skins of the grapes which can be used to ferment wine.
Using natural yeasts in this way, instead of commercial yeasts, means we can make two types of ‘natural wines’ - a biodynamic sparkling and a Petillant Naturel. We hope that these wines will have a real sense of ‘place’ or terroir, having been made with natural yeasts from the vineyard. Many people enjoy biodynamic and natural wines as they are lower in alcohol, softer in bubbles and have very few sulphites added.
The winemaker has very little control over the process of making these wines and has to rely on nature to do its work. As far as we are aware, no other vineyards in England have made a Pet Nat so maybe Albury Vineyard will be the first. Most people either love or hate wines made in this way. We will be interested to see what you think of ours!
Friday, 10 October 2014
We picked our first grapes of the 2014 harvest on Thursday - around 2.5 tonnes of Seyval which have been pressed to produce some 1500 litres of juice which in the wine world is called must. This will be fermented to produce a wine, probably blended with some Chardonnay, and then fermented again in the bottle for two years or more, to produce a quality English sparkling Blanc de Blancs (made from only white grapes).
It's been a good year so far for growing grapes but we are going to wait a week or two before picking our Chardonnay and Pinots to try and get the sugars and acids exactly where we want them to be, and also to give the grapes a bit more phenolic maturity. At the moment we are planning to start picking again on Saturday 18th October but this will depend on some more tests next week and of course the weather!
Happy days :)
Friday, 26 September 2014
So far this year we have been blessed with pretty good weather; certainly a lot better than the last few years. As a result, our grapes are ripening sooner than last year and we are now planning our harvest.
It looks like we will start picking week commencing 6th October and finish on Saturday 18th October, when we will get together with wine club members, family and friend to complete the harvest. The best laid plans are of course subject to the weather and dates may change!
If you would like to be involved in the harvest on the 18th October please register by emailing me at email@example.com. You must be prepared to be on the vineyard by 8.00am for a briefing; you can either stay until lunch at around 1.00pm or pick for the whole day. It's quite hard work but great fun and those involved will receive a free bottle of Silent Pool Rosé next year, and will also be invited to the harvest party in early November.
Hoping for a bit more sun in the next couple of weeks!
Sunday, 7 September 2014
During the last few weeks the grapes have started their ripening process, which in viticulture is called veraison. The Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier grapes change colour from from green to red and the Seyval and Chardonnay turn more translucent.
Grape berries have two distinct growth phases. The initial phase is when the cells divide and expand and the grapes begin to swell and fill out the bunch. After veraison the acidity decreases due to degradation of malic acid, making tartaric acid the predominant acid. At the same time sugars (glucose and fractose) are accumulated and the volume of water entering the grapes decreases resulting in an increase in sugar concentration. The level of sugar accumulation in the berries is dependant on leaf photosynthesis which is why we are hoping for some more sun! This week we will also be trailing a product made from yeast derivatives which is designed to improve the phenolic maturity of the berries.
As the fruit ripens it becomes more attractive to the birds so we've put up our KiteHawks which will hopefully keep them at bay.