2019 was our fifth harvest here at Oxney and with the grapes off the vines, pressed and in barrels and tanks becoming wine we have time to reflect.
The 2019 vintage was without doubt a year to remember for our vineyard manager. The year started well with no frost and great flowering. 2018 was wonderful so we had good bud development. The summer hit and this dry and sunny corner of East Sussex got some great weather. Then the weather pattern changed and it started raining… and did not stop. With less protection than conventional growers, our by now fabulous crop was starting to get a hint of botrytis. We have not harvested in such rainy conditions before and have so far never had to use the lids to our picking bins. Until 2019!
However, the crop was overall really good and with a good picking crew instructed to go slow and three stages of quality control before the grapes hit the press, we have now some wonderful fermenting wines in the tanks and barrels.
After a trial last year we have this year moved on to wild ferments and it has gone well. We are now, as we speak, putting the wines through malolactic fermentation. Not only does this naturally reduce the acid but also helps round out and give more depth to the wines.
All in we harvested just over 39 tonnes this autumn here at Oxney. This (a frequent question) translates into 21,000 litres of finished wine at around 550 litres per tonne. And, eventually, 28,000 bottles. We have developed a library of reserve wine over the years and some of this year’s harvest will go into the reserve library too.
When I started the vineyard in 2012 my most frequent question was ‘what makes great wine’ and as with most things in life there is not one answer. The most important aspect is, of course, the grapes. First, our natural approach to our organic and environmentally friendly vineyard leads to flavoursome grapes. The meticulous harvest strategy, picking at the right time with quality control at every corner, is the second step. And, thirdly, gentle whole bunch pressing, wild ferments and a care for all the details in the winery. Making excellent organic wines here in England is no laughing matter but it is absolutely possible.