Sunday, 30 September 2018

Well what an amazing Madeleine harvest we had on 16th September!

There’d been record warm and sunny weather from May to September, with the occasional rainy few hours to swell the grapes. The 16th September harvest day was, for the 2nd year running, our earliest ever harvest in 29 years, this time by just a day; last year, another early-ripening year, we picked the Madeleine on the equivalent Sunday, the 17th, one day later.

We’d worried that the grapes were ripening so fast that we should have picked even earlier on the previous weekend. That would have been tricky in practice. We were exhibiting at the Oxford Wine Festival until 10pm on the Saturday night. We did have a contingency plan for one of us to return home on the Saturday evening, but it turned out that the acidity of the ripening grapes held up well in the run-up, and although the grapes were higher in sugar than we aim for on 16th, the acid was easily high enough to add freshness to the wine.

It was a family affair as usual, with daughter Liz for the first time leading in the kitchen and Ned, Paula, Jane, and even fieldmaster Iain, buckling down and picking, along with friends old and new. The crop was heavier than we’d realised. We had to hastily bring the old horse trailer into service, clearing it out hastily while the final tubs were loaded on to the big trailer with still quite a bit to pick, and we pressure-hosed a stack of tubs from the log store on the fly. 104 tubs in tota!. The most since 2010. And it was 3.30 pm, everybody tired and hungry, when we sat down to our harvest meal. 

As usual we picked with volunteers, friends old and new.  Showers threatened on the day and we set up a marquee to cover the trailer, but, phew, the dark clouds just kept passing us by. Huge thanks to Ginge and Jess who loaded the big crop pretty much unaided. That marquee restricts the headroom when you stand on the trailer and doesn’t make it easy to stack the tubs, so it was a job very well done. Liz and Jan managed the kitchen and the table so efficiently that there was almost no washing up left to do at the end! I had, in a moment of madness, agreed to take over the Independent English Wine Awards Instagram for a day, as a part of their @IEWA Takeover season. It was fun but perhaps a distraction too far on harvest day!

On Monday morning the journey to the winery was smooth and blessedly uneventful. A little convoy of the truck filled with five tubs and the two dogs towed the big trailer, Jane’s trusty A3 with another couple of tubs towed the horse trailer two thirds full and Ned and Paula brought up the rear en route home to Hampshire, in case of any alarms and excursions. We needed both of Steve’s presses - again, for the first time since 2010.

Thanks to all who helped on the day - you were stars! - to Farmer John of nearby Secret Valley Vineyard for the loan of his 3 ton trailer and to Steve, Harry and Kevin up at the winery.

PS the harvest menu was Courgette terrine, Pork Afelia (Cypriot pork marinated and stewed in red wine with coriander), Puy lentils in olive oil topped with yoghurt and crispy fried onions, Greek salad, apple and quince crumble and cheeses. 

Photos here>>