Thriving soil and rising temperatures in all four corners of this country are just two theories behind the growing identity of English wine, and why it is now firmly on the map. The rise in popularity has ensured that English Wine Week is now a date to look out for and to mark it's 2022 arrival, we sit down with Knightor winemaker David Brocklehurst, to discuss the current season, the unpredictability of English weather and his vision for the future.
How was the 2021 growing season?
2021 was a challenging year on multiple fronts! One that makes you consider how sensible it is to grow grapes in this country?! Summer was cool and wet, which meant disease pressure was always high. Downy mildew regularly showing itself in both of our vineyards. Not only this but the ripening period September through to October was also relatively cool and again saw periods of prolonged rain. The fruit was average at best, with low sugar levels across the board and very light, delicate flavours. Where as I like to think 2020 was a low yield but very high quality, 2021 was low yield and down there with the poorest years of recent, easily comparable to the wash out that was the 2013 harvest! You always find in good years the wine 'makes itself', its easy.
What are you currently bottling?
We have bottled most of the 2021 harvest, but we still have Madeleine angevine and a pale light as a feather, Pinot Noir Rosé to bottle, but this still requires a little more barrel aging to soften it. After that we have a big batch of our non vintage Classic Cuvée White and Classic Cuvée Rosé to go in to bottle, which will be fun! Well over 15,000 bottles total, but they both look good. 2021 really showed the importance to us of 'non vintage bubbly', the reserve wines really came in to their own improving the overall blend.
Have you got a favourite from the current selection?
My favourite wine at the moment is the Vintage Cuvée White from 2013. It keeps getting better and better! The latest batches that we have disgorged have had close to 7 years aging on the lees (yeast sediment) in bottle before being disgorged. Its not the most obvious of wines, but its restrained elegance and dry racy character I love. It is roughly 50/50 of the best Chardonnay and Pinot Noir we had in that year, showing aromas of lemon, apple and gentle butter shortbread. I think it is one of the first blends I came up with, so it ticks the sentimental box as well for me!
What are your thoughts ahead of this season and into 2023?
From a wine making perspective, after a couple of harvests of low yields we would quite happily settle for a decent crop even if the quality was not super! So far we have had a decent start to the season, avoiding frosts. The vines look healthy, the next big step in the following couple of weeks (or roughly Wimbledon!) will be flowering and good weather would be appreciated!
Is there anything exciting on the horizon?
We are in the process of creating something very special, that combines our love for Vermouth, sparkling wine and cocktails! This is definitely a watch this space moment, as you will not want to miss out on this new concept.
We do tours every week during the peak season. Whether you are a complete novice and just want to learn a little more about the basics of how we make wine, or you are an enthusiast with a vaulted cellar filled with Grand cru Burgundies and top growth Bordeaux's, we would like to think we can offer something for everyone, or at least explain our philosophy and what makes us different.
You will be shown around by a member of the winery team, who will take you through the whole process from grape to glass providing as much information as you like. Giving you the real nitty gritty on the whole process, removing the 'rose tinted' view so many have of winemaking!
We finish the tour with a tasting of various styles of wines produced at Knightor, which is typically the most enjoyable segment!