Optimism is high around the UK wine harvest in 2022, even if winemakers are generally reluctant to fully ‘call’ a vintage so early in the process.
‘So far quality has been excellent,’ said Simon Roberts, head winemaker at Ridgeview in Sussex, southern England.
‘We are heading for one of Ridgeview’s biggest harvests ever, possibly topping the record 2018 vintage. The fruit is tasting exceptional,’ he added. ‘Excitingly it looks like a particularly good year for Chardonnay.’
One of the hottest years on record
England has had its joint hottest summer in records going back to 1884, while Wales and Scotland have recorded their eighth warmest summer season, showed provisional Met Office figures on 1 September.
Sunshine hours in England and Wales have been more than double the average, and it’s also been unusually dry.
Several UK wineries said a long, warm growing season has largely benefited 2022 vintage quality, even if heatwaves and drought have also required them to be flexible, most recently in managing acidity, sugar and overall ripeness.
‘Unlike most years, we will be picking our Chardonnay first due to such an unusual year with extremes in the weather with some of the hottest and driest temperatures experienced,’ said Roberts.
Kent-based Gusbourne Estate, which also has vines in West Sussex, began its harvest with Chardonnay for the first time since 2018. Picking started on 19 September and was 95% complete by 6 October, with grapes for still wines set to come in over the weekend.
’Yields are looking good, sugars and acids are looking good, so we’re very excited about the potential,’ said Charlie Holland, Gusbourne’s chief winemaker, adding 2022 is set to be a good year for demonstrating the character of different vineyard sites.
‘We were a bit concerned about acid levels dropping, but as we’ve got to the back end of the season we’ve found that hasn’t been the case,’ Holland told Decanter.
On vintage comparisons, he said 2022 might be somewhere between 2018 and 2016. ‘In 2016 we had high sugar, high acid. And in some of our sites [this year], not all of them, we’re finding that we’re able to retain that lovely freshness and crispness but a very ripe, full flavour profile.’
He added, ‘I think you’re going to have wines that have got great ageability but a lovely generosity to them.’
‘I’m really excited about what I’ve tasted’
White Castle Vineyard in Abergavenny, Wales, had harvested around around 60% of grapes by the middle of last week. ‘I’m just really excited by what I’ve tasted,’ said Robb Merchant, who owns White Castle with his wife, Nicola.
Several producers have reported smaller berries in some sites, although this may aid concentration in the wines, too.
‘Volume is probably down a little bit, not massively, but flavour profile is something to get really excited about I think,’ Merchant said.
White Castle, which last year became the first Welsh winery to win gold at the Decanter World Wine Awards, makes around 10,000 bottles per year on average and 2022 is likely to come close to this level.
Falling acidity has been the most difficult aspect to manage, Merchant said, adding harvest began two weeks earlier than normal. Still, ‘everything is looking good and strong and clean.’
Putting some context on the drought situation, he added, ‘Up until yesterday (4 October) we only had 180ml of rain since second week of January, in an area where you’d expect 1,600ml of rain for the year. To have just 10% [of that] is crazy really.’
He said he was hoping for some winter snow to replenish the water table but added White Castle’s vines have coped pretty well this year. ‘We’re on sandstone, so there’s always a little bit of moisture…
Source : https://www.decanter.com/wine-news/uk-wine-harvest-2022-exceptional-fruit-excites-producers-489099/