Davenport Vineyards - Harvest News 2000

Will Davenport originally sent his harvest news for an article on our Country Life page,
but now we have a dedicated vineyards section it seemed appropriate to move his report.
Wine buffs and also those who don't presume to know much about wine-making should
find the insights into the grape growing and wine-making process quite enlightening.

A warm spring without the late May frost gave us hope of a large crop this year, but then July dampened us down with virtually no sunshine and some exceptionally cool temperatures as the vines flowered. The fruit set (pollination) was very poor on some varieties and especially on our mainstay Ortega crop. Little did we know that by October we would be glad that the crop wasn't huge because it could never have ripened in the rain.

At last all the grapes are pressed and fermenting. The vineyard soil is soggy and the gales have caused some damage to our bird netting, but the crop is safe! This year has been the wettest harvest month ever, and the most difficult to manage for quality. Normally heavy rain on a ripe crop will be expected to dilute the grape juice, but for some reason we have seen our sugar concentrations in this year's grapes as high as the last 3 years (all of which were considered good vintages). The main reason for this is probably down to the natural thinning of the grapes by the poor flower set in July, making it easier for the vines to ripen a lighter crop. The down side (from our accountant's point of view) is that the volume of grapes was quite low despite our Rotherfield vineyard producing a decent-sized harvest.

We are hopeful that the wines will be good, and in addition that there will be some unique flavours due to our use of natural yeasts. All the ferments have gone smoothly and there have been definite differences in flavour from our previous vintages. We are convinced that certain tanks are showing an intensity of flavours that we have not seen in our wines before. The theory of natural winemaking without removing any of the grapes quality seems to be paying off already. Sugar levels were good and acids were a little high (which should help to make some wines capable of bottle ageing). We intend to produce a Horsmonden dry white, a dry Rosé, a traditional sparkling wine and possibly a medium-dry (if the wines show themselves to be suitable).

Now for the boring statistics for anybody who wants to know:
harvest start: 27 Sept 2000
harvest end: 31 Oct 2000
total crop size: 6 tonnes
highest sugar level: 82 Oeschle (Ortega picked 17/10/00)


The 2000 wines are still in tank as I write this. We have managed to ferment the musts without chemical de-acidification or the use of cultured yeast, and all the vats are showing some promising flavours. Some of the wines have been allowed to stay on their lees for extra time (probably at least 6 months), which will help them to naturally stabilise and enable me to bottle them with a much reduced use of sulphur dioxide. To me this is another example of how a little thought and less reliance on chemicals can make a more natural product, and a better wine too.

The surprise is that when we picked the grapes in the awful weather last October we were fearful that the rain may have been absorbed into the berries, resulting in a dilution of the flavours. However after the wettest harvest in most people's memories, the wines show plenty of quality, and I confidently rate the wines as being better than 1996 or 1998.

A full harvest report can be viewed on our website at: www.davenportvineyards.co.uk/harvest_2000.htm

Davenport Vineyards
Limney Farm, Castle Hill, Rotherfield, East Sussex. TN6 3RR
United Kingdom
e mail: will@davenportvineyards.co.uk


Copyright © 2000 & 2001 Davenport Vineyards