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Autumn sun brings hope for English wine’s 2016 harvest

Hopes are rising for another strong vintage for English wine, thanks to a warm September and October adding legs to the growing season.

There are few sections of the UK wine trade with as much confidence as the fledgling English wine industry in this current state of Brexit limbo.

A promising 2016 harvest for English wine looks set to add to the optimism that has been building around the sector for several years now.

Things were looking tricky until warm, sunny weather arrived in August and continued throughout much of September and early October.

In the Brexit context, there’s a wry humour in this being almost the perfect description of a ‘continental vintage’, as set out by Louis Roederer’s chef de cave, Jean-Baptiste Lécaillon, in Champagne.

But, English producers won’t mind that.

‘2016 is shaping up very nicely,’ said Cameron Roucher, vineyard manager at Rathfinny Estate. ‘We were very lucky to avoid any late frosts which affected large parts of Europe.’

Mardi Roberts, of Ridgeview, said the estate fruit was coming in ‘beautifully clean’, thanks in part to September sun.

‘The yields this year are generally down due to the cold snap in April and mixed weather at flowering, which affected some of our partnership vineyards,’ he told Decanter.com.

‘What 2016 will lack in quantity though it will make up for in extremely intensified quality.’

Stephen Skelton MW, an English wine expert and consultant, said that he expected sugars and acids on Chardonnay and Pinot Noir and Meunier to be excellent for sparkling.

He added that 2016 might also be particularly good for English still wines, if estates hold their nerve.

‘If people wait, then some very good still wines from these varieties will be produced as well,’ he told trade body English Wine Producers.

Andrew Jefford wrote in a recent column for Decanter.com that England’s long growing season has been under-played in the past.

‘It is not so much the precise soil type as the very long, drawn-out season itself which counts most in England’s favour,’ he said.

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