With the harvest now safely in, and our 2020 vintage happily fermenting its way towards perfection, we start to see the vines shutting down and the leaves turning a variety of shades from bright yellows and sunny oranges to deep reds and burnt ochres. It’s a wonderful time to walk the vines and drink in the colours of autumn.
The team still have plenty to do post-harvest, here’s an update on what’s happening in the vineyards, winery and brewery this autumn.
It has only been a few weeks since we were busy bringing in the last of the spectacular fruit harvest that we were blessed with this year. I have completed 12 consecutive vintages in Chapel Down’s vineyards, and the fruit this year was spectacular – perhaps even the best I have seen and tasted over that period. Harvest is my favourite time of year in the vineyards, as the vines show off their alluring fruit for wildlife to grab as an opportune sugary treat, or – if I can dissuade them – to harvest to turn into delicious wine. There is a real sense of excitement in seeing the grapes being picked and dreaming of how the wines will taste. Autumn arrives along with a quiet sense of satisfaction that another season is done, and a well-earned rest is needed. The colours are breath-taking too!
Earlier this week I was at our 108 acre Court Lodge vineyard on the Kent North Downs, where I bumped into our harvest bird patrol expert giving his handsome Chilean Blue Eagle a few test flights. A stunning sight. However, it was the magnificence of the yellow, gold, green and red rust leaves of the vines and surrounding trees and hedgerows that served to remind me that nature needs a rest too. Ours, however, will be a short-lived breather as we have over a million vines to prune and tie-down by hand before nature emerges from her rest and the vines start to push out their new shoots in April next year. Until then we will enjoy the spectacular display nature gives us at this time of year; sharpen the secateurs and dig out the thermal undies! Pruning, here we come…!
Richard Lewis, Head of Viticulture
As the leaves turn and start to fall in the vineyard, the soundtrack to our days in the winery is one of pressure washers deep cleaning! The completion of harvest marks the end of the growing year in the vineyard, but it also marks the beginning of the working year in the winery. The last few fermentations are finishing and the malolactic fermentations are bubbling away. There will be plenty of lab work and topping up of our tanks and barrels before the blending starts in earnest in a couple of weeks’ time. The excellent ripening conditions of 2020 meant that the fruit arrived looking and tasting fantastic! This is the first step towards making good wine, but it’s no guarantee. As the wines finish fermentation it’s the first chance for us to see how the wines look and what the palate of flavours may look like for the blending process. It’s looking very good…
Josh Donaghay-Spire, Head Winemaker
British summer time ended last week, which gives us a few extra weeks at the Brewery to enjoy coming to work in the daylight…..but it won’t last for long! As brewers, our day starts early, around 6am, and by the time most people are tackling their daily commute, we have already milled the grain, mashed in our first brew of the day and have started to collect the precious wort that we will lovingly turn into beer over the next few weeks.
October and November are historically the busiest time of year for breweries. It’s about now that we start to make the beer that helps make your bosses jokes slightly more tolerable during the office Christmas party! But as we all know, 2020 has had other ideas. Whilst we may not be producing the same amount of kegs that we would normally expect at this time of year, we are eagerly building fresh bottle stock of Curious Brew & Session IPA to fuel the inevitable influx of Christmas Zoom quiz nights!
Matt Anderson, Head Brewer
Stay up to date with the latest Chapel Down news by signing up to our Newsletter here.