Our First Harvest
first harvest is always special, but we have particular reasons to
remember ours. Firstly we had had some problems with powdery mildew
during the year, mainly as a result of poor spray cover brought on by
having too much growth. We also had problems with bunch rot in the
Phoenix - an occurance that continues to plague us. As a result the
harvest was very slow as we had to sort the good from the bad, often
down to selecting berries from a bunch. In later years we have got a
bit more sanguine about this but with your first crop you want to
harvest every good berry, and only good berries!
run-up to harvest had been pretty wet and I hadn't had a chance to get
out and cut the grass between the rows. From the picture alongside you
would have thought we had perfect picking weather but actually it was
cold and pretty damp. Most of the crop was brought in during a
consistent light drizzle. Not enough to spoil the crop but enought to
make us thoroughly miserable.
We picked just under a ton of grapes, with the Reichensteiners the best performer, followed by the Angys then the Phoenix.
The grapes went straight into the crusher/destemmer. As
you can see from the picture I saved on buying the official stand. This
was a mistake that I have since rectified! I also saved on getting the
powered version, so after harvest my right arm looked like
crushed the grapes were allowed to stand in large food grade plastic
tubs to macerate typically overnight (with the addition of SO2 and
pectolytic enzyme). This practice doesn't seem to be too widespread in
England as the common practice is to press immediately. I think it
allows for greater flavour extraction from the skins. You do have to be
careful not to pick up too many phenols though.
standing the must was pressed in our 90l hydraulic press. This is a
small hand unit that we acquired from another vineyard. It is actually
a bit small for our needs but it works fine - just rather a lot of
loading and unloading required. It is powered by mains water pressure
alone. As simple as connecting the hose. You can see the connections in
the picture below. You can see the water coming out of the bottom of
the press as the pressure is released. We now recycle this water for
cleaning. Once pressed the juice was left to stand for 48 hours and the
clear juice was taken off the gross lees and into our stainless tanks
ready for innoculation with yeast.
total we collected about 550 litres. We fermented all three varieties
together and the result was our 2004 Letcombe Brook, which went on to
take two "Highly Commended"s in the regional wine competition.
For more on the wines themselves see the Wines section.