Saturday, 20 October 2018

Kernling safely in! Our largest Kernling harvest EVER! Beautiful rosy-red clean jewel-like grapes.

But, oh alas, it rained on harvest day. After two weeks of forecasting a fine day, all changed 24 hours beforehand  as the tail of Storm Callum confounded the forecasters. The worst was over by coffee time but it got colder as the day progressed and never really dried out. Still, the pickers, loaders and the kitchen crew were unfailingly cheerful, worked with a will and everyone seemed to have a good time.

Ginge and Jess, loading, helped by Ned, struggled to keep up - those grapes just kept on coming and the tubs got heavier as we started to run short. Emergency tub-hunting-and-washing AGAIN! 😳. We pressed Liz’s  posh horse trailer into service (thanks, Liz, we know it’s precious!) because it’s bigger than the old one we usually use for extra capacity at harvest, and more importantly hasn’t got a dodgy wheel bearing so could safely carry three layers of tubs. But aaargh! The skiddy grass and 2 tons meant that at the end it wouldn’t pull away up the slope. While most of the pickers wandered unaware down to their well-earned lunch, we tried pushing but no dice. Heart-in-mouth moment. Would we have to unload? But no worries. Iain, with the trusty little Kubota tractor and a rope, pulled it up to the top of the slope no prob. Phew!

The last 12 heavy tubs were exhaustedly shoved into Iain and Ned’s trucks and my little hatchback - there were a massive-for-us 127 in all, our biggest ever Kernling harvest in 29 years. Previous record was 105 tubs in 2006. Over 4 tons off an acre-and-a-bit. Should be over 3000 bottles.

Daughter Liz did the cooking, with the help of friends Jules and Sian. We were all cold and hungry by the time we had the loading finished and were glad to retreat into the farmhouse for a warming menu of spiced squash and tomato soup, pork braised in Oatley Leonora’s, with mash and red cabbage, orange-and-almond cake (a particular triumph, SOOO delish!) with whipped cream, and then cheeses and coffee.

Many thanks everyone. It’s harder in the rain and it was very cold on the hands, but you were all brilliant.

The morning journey to Steve’s winery, Iain pulling the big trailer, Ned and Paula the heavy horsebox and me bringing up the rear with my little A3 full of tubs and smelling like a winery, was heavy-trailer slow (sorry, A39 traffic!), and it was still cold and raw. Good for the grapes to be cool though. 

The free-run juice was 80 Oechsle and the acid still a bit high at 12 g/l TA, but Steve’ll sort that out in the winemaking. Even with both presses going there wasn’t room for all the grapes in one go - a first for us. 

Oh and great news about  the Madeleine which has nearly finished fermenting: 2300 litres, 75 Oe and 9.5 g/l acid (TA) - lots of it and perfect! 

Then Ned and Paula set off home to Hampshire and Iain and I whizzed the two empty trailers back and it was all over for another year, bar the tub-washing (guess who…). Vintage 2018 is over to the safe hands of Steve, Harry and Kevin up at the winery.

Now we’re enjoying the bright gold of the Madeleine Angevine vines as we stash everything away for the winter, in (now!) lovely autumn sunshine.

The end of an amazing vintage! Started cold, wet and late but boy, didn’t it catch up in that hot summer!  Already I’m eyeing up the Madeleine as it sheds its leaves, planning the pruning cuts. But no, not until the leaves have fallen. November is vinegrowers’ time off.

Top photo above by Ned.

See the full set of photos of harvest day in our gallery here>>. And one of Jess, the vineyard dogs and the grapes in our photo-of-the-month here>>.