With the season wrapped up, thousands of bottles filled and labelled, row upon row of vines tended, pruned and blended, it's time for us - and you - to grab a festive tipple and toast to 2019.
This year has been fantastic for the quality and recognition of English wine, with many successful highlights for us here at Knightor Winery. However, it wasn't all smooth sailing, as our winemaker David explains.
From one extreme to the other
If you had spoken to me in early May, I wouldn't have sounded too optimistic about the coming 2018 growing season and grapes. March and April being very cool, late March was even cold enough for a dusting of snow down here in tropical Cornwall! This cold spring resulted in a late bud-burst for the vines, which were a good 3 to 4 weeks behind usual. From this point you would have to say we would need an exceptional summer to ripen the grapes in what would be a short growing season.
Fortunately for us, an exceptional summer was what we got! Early summer temperatures were above average and rainfall well below, this resulted in the vines putting on incredibly fast growth early in the season and flowering if anything around a week earlier than typical. Weather during flowering was perfect resulting in great, even fruit set. The summer remained dry so disease pressure was low and the vines were not as vigorous as in a typical summer. This dry weather was perfect for the grapes but less so for other crops such as the spuds in the neighbouring field of our Portscatho vineyard.
The negatives of a hot summer
Harvest began at Seaton vineyard on the 17th September with the Rondo and ended on the 18th of October with Seyval Blanc from our Portscatho vineyard. Across almost all varieties yields were above average and quality and ripeness above average too.
One of the few difficulties during the growing season to mention was the odd spell of weather during ripening in September where disease pressure was high due to high humidity. This resulted in some varietals such as Bacchus having a very short window for picking before botrytis set in. Fortunately cases such as these were the exceptions, its disappointing, plus requires a lot more selective picking.
A special year for Knightor wines
This year fermentation on the whole has been unusually slow, with many ferments lasting well over a month; some over 2 months! Our last 2 Chardonnay barrels have just finished mid December - this is after 3 months fermenting! There's no rush! It is still early on in the winemaking but is clear the 2018 wines will have more body, structure and texture than you would typically expect of an English wine, they show great potential!
There are a few standouts of the 2018 crop for me, Pinot Noir in general was very good for either rosés or red wines but the most exciting is a great batch of Pinot Noir Précoce from our Portscatho vineyard. In the past we have made both sparkling and a still rosé from this variety but this year seemed the perfect opportunity to push for a red wine given how clean the fruit was and the levels of ripeness. Half of the volume of this has gone in to barrel the other half maturing in tank, keep a lookout for a release in summer 2019! Its looking wonderfully soft fruity and elegant.
We can't wait to see what 2019 has in store for us and hope you join us for the adventure!