UK winemakers celebrate harvest of the century

Wine producers across the UK are hailing 2018 the harvest of the century following a record-breaking summer and an unusually warm autumn resulting in excellent quality grapes with high yields.

David Parkinson, CEO, WineGB, comments:
“This year’s extraordinary harvest offers the UK wine industry so many exciting opportunities. It comes at a time when there is so much uncertainty around Brexit, particularly in the agricultural sector and is a real boost for the country. With the rise in rural employment that we are likely to see over the next 20 years, the growth in wine tourism that will result from the expansion of wineries across the country and the continuing increase in exports, the future of the UK wine industry looks very bright indeed.”

Some winemakers started to harvest in September and others are still picking now but all are reporting clean, ripe grapes with concentrated fruit, good sugars and acidity levels, thanks to the ideal growing conditions. Producers across the country are predicting an excellent year for English still wines, particularly red wines. The unusually hot, dry summer has resulted in very ripe fruit with concentrated flavours which should translate into some very exciting still wines. The outlook is just as positive for sparkling wine producers on both the quality and quantity front.

Many producers are reporting at least double the volume they harvested in 2017 which was a particularly challenging year for many, due to the early frosts which affected many wine regions across Europe. With last year’s total volume at around 6 million bottles, the 2018 vintage is likely to be at least twice, if not three times the size. Whilst is far too early to predict actual volumes at this stage, WineGB will be conducting a vineyard survey in the first quarter of 2019.

Whilst there is a small increase in volume due to new vineyards coming on stream or maturing, the most significant factor for this year’s high volumes and superb quality is the exceptionally long, warm, dry summer and early autumn.

With consumer demand for English and Welsh wine continuing to grow both at home and abroad, the extra volumes will be welcomed. As the export market continues to expand, there is also more and more demand for our wines from markets such as the US, Asia, Scandinavia, Japan and Australia which presents further opportunities for producers.

Quotes from Winemakers

Albury Organic Vineyard, Surrey - Nick Wenman, owner
"2018 is set to be an exceptional year. With no significant frost damage and a very warm summer to ripen the grapes, we have had a bumper crop of excellent quality fruit equating to twice last year’s yield and 40% more than any year since the vineyard was planted. The 2018 vintage will help to meet the rapidly expanding demand for our wines and will allow us to cellar some reserve wines to be used for more challenging years in the future."

Bolney Wine Estate, Sussex - Sam Linter, owner and winemaker
“This year’s harvest is looking phenomenal for Bolney, in terms of quality and quantity, seeing an increase of 83% in yield of bottles produced. This seems similar countrywide.”

Davenport (Organic) Vineyards, Sussex – Will Davenport, winemaker
“We have had a massive harvest – our biggest ever by a fair distance, with an average of over 3 tonnes per acre and almost no rot or mildew (we are organic and have only applied 6 Sulphur sprays this year). Sugars are looking good and acids are just right. We have some fermenting tanks that are showing fantastic flavours.”

Hattingley Valley Vineyards, Hampshire - Simon Robinson, owner (and Chairman of WineGB)
“The ideal growing conditions we have enjoyed have led to this being a fantastic year for us, with almost all our suppliers delivering record yields. We pressed around 180 tonnes in 2017 but this year will probably be 650-700 tonnes when we have finished. Encouragingly, the hot sunny weather also means the quality of the grapes is excellent with high sugars, good acids and virtually no disease.”

Giffords Hall, Suffolk - Linda Howard, owner
“Here at Giffords Hall, we are 60% up on last year, getting back to longer term averages. It has been a benign year - lovely quality with high volumes, no disease, and exceptionally high sugars and acidity - just about perfect, with the added bonus of a fair-weather harvest.”

Hush Heath, Kent - Richard Balfour-Lynn, owner
“This is a record harvest and we’ve seen volumes and quality unlike any year since our first harvest in 2004. Some of our red grapes for making still wines are coming in at 94 Oechsle which produces an English red wine at 13% alcohol; it’s quite extraordinary and compares with a great Burgundy. The volumes are much needed after last year’s air frost which decimated the vines. I think it reflects the extreme weather patterns experienced around the world possibly as result of global warming. There is no doubt that all the wineries in Kent have benefitted enormously from the weather and all are producing record harvests.”

Laurel Wines, Yorkshire - Ian Sargent, owner (and Chairman, Mercian Regional Association)
“This is without doubt our largest harvest and the fruit was in great condition for producing excellent wines. We believe that 2018 will be a great vintage, not only for Yorkshire but for all English and Welsh wine producers.”

Lyme Bay Vineyard, Devon - Liam Idzikowski, winemaker
“2018 is a fantastic year for the still and sparkling winemakers of England and Wales. But for those who have planted in the right places and have dared to aim for still, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay have seen something really special, with incredible flavours and balance that should produce world-class still wines.”

Polgoon Vineyard, Cornwall - Clare Woodhouse
“Our harvest has been fantastic this year. We've had about 50% more fruit on the vines and great sugar levels. We've also had record numbers on our vineyard tours - well over 2000 visitors.”

Simpsons Wine Estate, Kent – Ruth Simpson
“We are expecting a much larger grape harvest this year, which we are delighted about given that we lost 60% of our crop to frost in 2017, although it has meant that we have had to rent a second grape press and bring forward the purchase of four 10,000 litre tanks to process this additional fruit. In 2017 we picked 3 tonnes per hectare and in 2018 we are now anticipating 5 or 6 times that, so as much as 17 tonnes per hectare from the three-year-old Roman Road Vineyard.”

White Castle Vineyards, Wales - Robb Merchant, owner (and Chairman of the Welsh Vineyards Association)
“Harvest 2018 at White Castle Vineyard has been a gift, with volume well up and good quality, clean grapes. Following such a good summer, harvest could have started two to three weeks earlier than normal; however, with such large crops we have taken our time, to allow the grapes to enjoy the last of the autumn sunshine which has given us good sugars and lower acidity - ideal for still wines. Other Welsh vineyards are reporting much the same, with large crops and early harvest; some crops are double the normal harvest volume.”

Woodchester Valley Vineyard, Gloucestershire - Fiona Shiner, founder
“The fruit is very bountiful and clean this year - an amazing year!”

John Mobbs

Founder of GreatBritishWine.com, John has been a prolific user on wine rating app Vivino for the last couple of years. Now a self appointed Great British Wine ambassador and with a mission to explore all corners of the UK to uncover the best producers and most exciting wines.

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