English wine producers are hailing 2014 as a year to remember after a warm, dry September produced one of the earliest harvests in recent times.

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Gusbourne Estate’s Butness Pinot Noir vines before harvest, credit: @gusbourne / Twitter

Some vineyards faced a race against time to complete picking as heavy rain moved across the country earlier this week, but most say 2014 is a ‘great crop’ in terms of quality and quantity, with ‘exquisite’ fruit.

‘We have picked in beautiful sunshine, light rain, heavy rain and even woken to a morning with a touch of frost!’ said Kevin Sutherland, winemaker at Bluebell Estates in Sussex.

‘Despite this, it’s been a great harvest, the fruit is excellent quality and certainly riper than last year.’

Chapel Down CEO Frazer Thompson said he did not believe the recent wet weather would impact harvest, adding: ‘We have been fortunate to have an extended ripening period this year and the grapes are very well protected.’

Fruit was clean, he said, with no sign of botrytis. ‘Despite experiencing some rain, it is still warmer than average for this time of year, which is helping with later-ripening varieties, such as Pinot Noir and our late Chardonnay.

‘We are fortunate to say that the fruit from this year’s harvest has been, and continues to be, exquisite.’

Gusbourne Estate in Kent said the harvest had been one of the earliest of the past decade, with picking finished by 7 October, before the onset of the wet weather.

Similarly, Camel Valley in Cornwall started picking on 23 September – two weeks before the previous earliest harvest of 2006 – and finished on 7 October, the usual start date.

Winemaker Sam Lindo said yields in all varieties were very high and unusually ripe, adding: ‘It’s been a growing and winemaking year to savour; a pleasure to make wine from such fantastic grapes.’

Written by Richard Woodard