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English winemakers pray for Indian summer

The English grape harvest will be about two weeks later and smaller than normal – with winemakers hoping for a fine September to save the vintage.

Three Choirs: ‘a few interesting wines’

After one of the dampest and coldest summers on record, some winemakers are more positive than others.

At Three Choirs Vineyard in Gloucestershire, managing director Thomas Shaw said, ‘There is a crop out there so it’s not all doom and gloom but there has just been a lack of sun and too much wet. There have been signs of ripening in August but the grapes will be small. We need some warm weather.’

Small berries can mean intense flavours, however, and Shaw says there may be ‘a few interesting wines’.

The white grapes Madeleine Angevine and Reichensteiner have that ‘interesting’ potential, Shaw said, as do the red grapes Rondo and Regent.

Others are looking on the positive side. ‘The yields are reduced but what’s left could be quite special. Small yields equal intense fruit flavours,’ Mardi Roberts at Ridge View in Sussex said. ‘At least we don’t have to do a green harvest.’

Roberts said Pinot Noir would be down, as would Chardonnay, and both would be late. ‘But the vineyards are in lovely shape, and there is low pressure coming in so we should have a fine September to bring those sugar levels up.’

In Cornwall, Sam Lindo at Camel Valley is also putting his faith in the sky. ‘There’s still time for some really good weather and that could change everything.’

For the sparkling producers, a smaller yield is not causing too much alarm. As Roberts said, they will rely on stocks from the bumper harvest of 2010, and will hope for a bigger harvest in 2013 to replenish reserve wines.

Across England and Wales fruit has suffered from the miserable summer: some apple farmers have lost up to 90% of their crop, and the trade association English Apples and Pears estimates a harvest 20-30% smaller than average. Plums have been decimated, with unripe fruit absorbing too much water, splitting and rotting on the tree.

Written by Adam Lechmere

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