Vintage report 2022

Sunday, 13 November 2022

What a brilliant year it’s been for vineyards!

The vines loved the dry spring and summer heat, though we did get a bit of scorch on the grapes. It was mainly in part of the lower block of thin-skinned Madeleine Angevine (the white grapes in  these photos). It happened when those August days of 36C hit us, which unluckily was just after we had trimmed the leaves over the fruiting zone in that block. We won’t be trimming the hotter, west sides of  the Madeleine before the second half of August in future! But it didn’t hit the yield significantly, or the quality - the scorched grapes shrivelled and  dropped off by harvest.

Interestingly, despite the hot summer, the early-ripening Madeleine didn’t ripen earllier than usual and we picked it on the 25th September, normal time and 10 days later than the early years of ’18  and ‘20. The August heat must have come too late in its cycle to speed it up. The late ripening, pink Kernling by contrast did ripen early, showing brown pips, indicating “phenolic” ripeness, before the sugars peaked. We picked it on 16th September at a gratifyingly high 86 degrees Oechsle (the sugar measure we use, equivalent to a bit over 12% natural alcohol) and looking perfect. Only 3 weeks between harvests rather than the usual four. Lost a bit to blackbirds up by the top hedge despite getting perimeter nets on early. Maybe we’ll try full netting along the row ends there next year…

Unusually, there was little difference down the slope in the ripeness. Usually the top, which is warmer, ripens first. We think partly it was because the flowering and fruit set was very quick in the July hot spell, and partly because with Ned and Paula here, we had time to deleaf the high-trained vines of the lower block early, starting after fruit-set in July, and work systematically from the cooler bottom of the slope to the top, rather than my usual habit of going row-by-row in a September rush. Getting the vines exposed to the sun means thery have a warmer time of it.

Our two harvest days were as usual family affairs with friends, neighbours and some customers too. Lovely to be able to have a properly convivial time again after two pandemic-distanced harvests. Niece Isie and Josh came over from Wales with their 7 month old baby to the Kernling harvest together with Iain’s sister Mary, though we were sad to miss our daughter Liz for that one - she was recuperating at home after a nasty tumble the day before on the road by the farmhouse when her cob took fright as she was mounting and Ned drove by with the harvest trailer. 

Our harvest meals have got a bit less formal under Ned and Paula’s influence but still we hope delicious. This year it was slow-barbecued pork and veggie sides from Sami Tamimi’s “Falastin” cookbook, a Christmas pressie from Liz so she was here in spirit.

We were busy hosting tasting visitors from the end of April until the first weekend of September when we close for harvest prep. Our "Do it Yourself”  tastings were very popular again. We greet arriving groups with a chilled box of wine - one of each our current releases - and usher them to one of three private spots in the vineyard set up with picnic tables, chairs and deckchairs. Oatley is a  tranquil, beautiful location and we got used to seeing groups returning looking  really blissed out after their leisurely, at-their-own-pace tastings .

We enjoyed having open doors all week for the excellent Somerset Food trail in the third week of July. Hope it runs next year too.

It been the year when Ned and Paula started taking over in earnest. Not just the heavy lifting in the vineyard like last year, but now they’re living here routine tasks like labelling, mowing, and prepping the flowers for the picnic tables. Ned has led most of the private group tastings too. Their own plantings of 2 year old Pinot Noir and first year Cabernet Noir, a modern disease-resistant crossing, suffered a bit in the dry season, and neither made enough growth to make cropping next year realistic, at scale anyway.  But they survived. Meanwhile Ned and Paula's twins, Albert and Edie, are nearly 4 already, revelling in country life and quite blasé about harvest excitement. 

What  of the wines? We were again invited to submit our current releases to Master of Wine Tim Atkins’ “England Special Report”, available from Tim Atkin’s website for a snip at £15. Delighted that all four of them reached the qualifying score. Here are the comments from judge Tom Hewson: 

Oatley Brut Nature 2019 Batch 2

  •  85 points
  •  Kernling from Somerset. 16 months on lees. 
  • A quite delightful, slightly wild nose of green conference pears and wild flowers.
  • Slightly lifted and naturalistic on the palate with some windfall fruit character and prominent acidity. Racy.

Oatley Jane’s 2021

  • 88 points
  • Madeline Angevine, estate-grown in Somerset. 
  • Peardrops, russets and leafy lime notes here, lifted with some fragrant jasmine notes. 
  • The palate is presented with nice white pear softness and a touch of spritz, clean and clear. 
  • Approachable and classically-English.

Oatley Leonora’s 21

  • 87 points
  • Kernling, estate-grown in Somerset. 
  • Meadow-green, with some peardrop and blossom notes. 
  • The palate is sprightly and limey-fresh, spritzy with some attractive delicacy and refreshment, balanced with just enough sweetness. Nicely done.

Fraîcheur Barrel Matured 2020

  • 86 points
  • Madeline Angevine. 
  • A creamy, fresh nut top note over green melon and herbal notes here, with some pear and hedgerow characters. 
  • Limey, leesy palate with some concentration of flavour.

Also very chuffed with this review of our “Jane’s 2021” by Matthew Jukes MW for his website column for English Wine Week in  June:

I have a soft spot for sensitively made Madeleine Angevine, and ‘Jane’s’ is delightfully light, pure and innocent with lovely poise and freshness. It is a classic example of a quintessential English summer white designed for all-day drinking with your best friends. Given the case price, you have no excuse for missing out on this gentle, soothing white wine. “ 

Jane’s ’21  was also listed by Vineyard Magazine as one of the top 100 UK wines of the year.

Sadly, Jane’s 21 is now nearly sold out. We’ve kept the last few boxes to put one in each of our Christmas Survival Six boxes (Available here>>). 

We are also planning a small raid on our back numbers library to put together a limited edition vertical tasting box of Oatley Leonora’s, going back to 2014. The Leonora’s Time Travel Six! More soon on this one.

Meanwhile the ’22 wines are fermenting and maturing in their tanks and barrels up at Steve’s winery and the vines are heading gently through this weirdly warm autumn into winter. Ned and Paula are starting on erecting the trellis for their Cabernet Noir planting but for Iain and me its the one fallow month of the year, while the vines are left to draw back nutrients from leaves and canes into their trunks and roots for winter dormancy in peace and we can catch up on everything else. Pruning starts in December...