- 12 Aug 2018
- Camilla Wood
Conduit Article - September
Celebrating a Great Summer - Harvest Time
“It is only the farmer who faithfully plants seeds in the Spring, who reaps a harvest in the Autumn.” said B C Forbes in the nineteenth century and today there is no change to that sentiment when we consider the important month of September in the eyes of the wine producer.
Looking back to February, just before The Beast from the East struck, a group of Somerset Wine Co. customers huddled, teeth chattering, under umbrellas in the brown and dormant vineyard of Guy Smith, of Smith and Evans near Langport, bearing secateurs and an enthusiasm to learn to prune a grapevine. Then, as befitting the season, the vines were knarly stumps with last years’ stripped canes hanging loosely, like forlorn foot soldiers in the aftermath of a bloody battle. We braved the elements and following Guy’s tutelage, cut back a row of vines to the essential 2 renewal spurs and 4 canes, then went inside, seeking solace in warm soup and a glass of Guy’s wonderful 2013 Somerset Sparkling.
Now, in September, with a gloriously sunny summer behind us, it looks like harvest in our Dorset and Somerset vineyards will take place this year at the same time as central France, in the middle of the month. Grape farmers like Guy Smith, Ingrid Bates of Dunleavy and Sandy Luck of Aldwick Estate will be hoping for continued dry weather without too much rain to dilute the ripening grapes, nor humid weather to encourage rot, nor freak hail to destroy the grapes. Harvest is a perilous, nerve-wracking time when all the good work of the growing season could be jeopardised and potential income compromised in a sudden cruel moment of inclement weather.
Most small vineyards such as those in Somerset will be harvested by hand, meaning the need for a workforce of reliable pickers is necessary and their skill in selecting the best grapes is crucial to the outcome of the vintage. Too many unripe grapes in the press or stalks which impart tannins and vegetal flavours, will affect the balance of the resulting juice. When making Sparkling wine, which by its nature is zesty and lively with high acidity, retaining that magic balance of enough fruit sweetness and acid in the grape is the challenge. The wine maker must make that crucial call as to when the grape has reached optimum ripeness for the style of wine desired. Black grapes, such as the Pinot Noir grown at Aldwick Estate will be left to hang longer on the vine to further concentrate the sugars and ripen the phenolic flavours of the grape skins and pips, as these will all be pressed and the resulting juice fermented to make a red wine. Red wines will generally see some time aged in barrel post fermentation (at least 6 months in French oak ideally) but for whites (including the base wine for Sparkling) will be fermented at cool temperatures in stainless steel to retain the fresh, fruity aromas.
So, to celebrate a great summer and the beauty of the vineyard in full bloom or rather full fruit, we are organising a return visit to Smith & Evans on Saturday September 15th to see how our pruning work has evolved and to enjoy a picnic lunch in the vineyard along with a tasting of their new vintage wines. If you’d like to join us, please call Camilla or Susanne in the shop on 01963 548228 to book a ticket (£15).
To conclude, as the poetically named Thomas Love Peacock wrote in 1860,
“The juice of the grape is the liquid quintessence of concentrated sunbeams.” We have the harvest to thank for that. Alleluia!
TEL: 01963 548228
firstname.lastname@example.orgThe Somerset Wine Company Ltd.
The Deli Castle Cary
Pitchings House, Market Place,
Castle Cary, Somerset BA7 7AL
Mob: 07717 396635 Shop: 01963 548228
Opening Hours: Mon - Sat 9am - 6pm
All other times by appointment
LUX Guide 2017 'Best West Country Wine & Spirits Purveyor'
Runner Up as 'Newcomer of The Year' in the Drinks Retailing Awards 2016
Finalist in Muddy Stilettos 'Best Somerset Wine Merchant' 2016 & 2017