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 firstname.lastname@example.org. 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.
We now have our very own barn on the vineyard where we can store the tractor, it's various attachments and other equipment. It will also be a a base for vineyard tours and we hope to be able to open up a small retail area once we have a licence.
Of course we had to have a little celebration so we invited Wine Club members, family and friends to join on the vineyard to sample our Silent Pool Rosé 2013 (now sadly sold out!). About 100 supporters visited during the day and some had picnics on the vineyard. They were also treated to tours around the vineyard from Alex, and Ian, from the Surrey Distillery showed visitors their shiny new distillery next door at Sherbourne Farm
The harvest is getting nearer and we are hoping for some good weather in September to ripen the grapes. The likely harvest date for Wine Club members, family and friends is Saturday 18th October, although this could slip a week dependant on the weather.
Monday, 4 August 2014
Last year we had a problem ripening our Seyval, the majority of which we decided wasn't good enough to make quality sparkling wine. So what to do? Luckily a new distillery has moved in next door to us and we have decided to make a grappa style spirit from what amounts to around 900 litres of Seyval wine.
Attila's Bite, as we intend to call this fragrant aromatic spirit, is named after Alex's new Parson Russell Terrier, who prowls the vineyard chasing the pheasant and other unwanted visitors. We hope that it will be available for sale in September. It will pack quite a punch so please drink responsibly!
Earlier this week we tasted what will be the very first release of our quality bubbly. It's a blend of wines made from our 2011 and 2012 harvests, which were partly aged in oak before being bottled for secondary fermentation early last year. We were delighted with the results; a real credit to our vineyard manager Alex, who carefully nurtures the vines, and also winemaker Matthieu at Litmus.
During the last 18 months the wine has been through secondary fermentation in the bottle (to give it its fizz) and then matured on the lees to develop it's character. The final stage of producing sparkling wine using the traditional method (or méthode champenoise) comprises riddling the wine so that the lees from the secondary fermentation collects in the neck of the bottle. This is then frozen, removed from the bottle, and then replaced with a mixture of the base wine and some sugar, called the dosage. The sugar is added to balance the acidity in the wine; we want to produce a dry (Brut) sparkling so after many tastings (!) we settled on just 11grams sugar/litre.
Stephen Skelton MW, who was there for the tasting, commented:
"This wine has a firm backbone of ripe acidity, superbly balanced with a touch of sweetness. It has good fruit, both on the nose and palate, and finishes on a long, firm note. An excellent first sparkling wine from Albury."
Albury Estate Sparkling will be released for sale at the end of November. Unfortunately we only have 1500 bottles so supply will be very limited.