Our annual harvest festival celebrations in the UK are the closest we come to a US-style Thanksgiving. Now, more than ever, it’s feels important to take these moments to reflect with gratitude on our relative good fortune, and here at the Winery we’re definitely grateful for all hands on deck that have helped us process this year’s grape harvest.
Since the end of September some 270 tonnes of grapes have come through the Winery, with our dedicated staff working 24-hour shifts to meet their arrival at all hours of the day and night. Destemming, crushing, and pressing has mainly taken place during the day shifts, while the night shifts look after fermentation, with managing director James Lambert also rolling up his sleeves to join the nocturnal crew.
Exceptional still wines
Our passion for producing exceptional still wines see us work with growers on planting specific still wine grapes for our wines, rather than trying to make still wines from sparkling wine grapes.
James predicts this year’s grapes will have a similar quality to 2018 – which was unprecedented for English wine – and says as well as exceptional wines across the board, 2020 will be the year of the Chardonnay.
“We work with specially selected growers to ensure we receive the best grapes and can reach the pinnacle of quality with the wines we produce”, says James, “and the chardonnay grape has thrived in the summer we have had this year. Our 2020 Chardonnay will be fermented in a higher percentage of oak and new oak giving the wine an unparalleled complexity and depth, enhanced by a delayed release date for the 2020 vintage.”
Years of planning pay off
We also have some exciting red wine plans thanks to the 30 tonnes of pinot noir grapes that arrived at the beginning of October that are set to make us one of the largest red wine producers in the UK – a result that has been years in the planning.
Red wine production is limited in the UK due to our climate, but we have been working with growers across the south of the country for several years, planting pinot noir grapes specifically to this end. 2020 has been an excellent year for the grapes, culminating in a final burst of warm, sunny weather since the end of August. The precious cargo came straight from field to winery as soon as the grapes were picked from the vineyards in Essex, before being carefully scrutinised by our wine makers to ensure the finest quality wine.
Record-breaking pinot noir
Indeed, as we approach the end of the 2020 harvest, we are thrilled to report a batch of pinot noir grapes with potential alcohol levels of 14.7% – a record for the UK. These grapes come from the Crouch Valley in Essex, where we have been working for years with vineyard consultant Duncan McNeill and growers across the region to develop a long-term partnership.
“For grapes to achieve this level of ripeness in the UK is unheard of”, says James, “which makes us even more excited about the Pinot Noir that we can create from this year’s harvest. We have been very lucky this year but not every year will be like this. That’s why we work with the growers on a long-term basis, and it is paying off. The natural ripeness and physiological development of these pinot noir grapes means that we can really go to town on the extraction of flavours and colour to make truly singular wines.”
The Winery has not released a red wine since 2016 when a small run of 1,400 bottles sold out almost immediately. Our 2020 Pinot Noir will be created in two tiers – the first likely be released at the end of 2021, and the second more premium limited release in 2022 – and will make Lyme Bay Winery one of the largest red wine producers in the UK.
“English wine continues to grow in popularity and our aim has always been to grow and evolve also”, says James. “Wines like Pinot Noir and Chardonnay did not seem a possibility when English wine was in its infancy, but now we are playing on the world stage with our still wines. We are expecting great things from this harvest – it could be a classic vintage and everyone at the Winery is very excited to be creating these wines.”
Stock up at the Winery Shop
With our wonderful Winery Shop open again – with the required social distancing and safety measures in place, of course – now is the perfect time to stock up on your favourite Lyme Bay drinks and raise a glass to this year’s autumn bounty.
Do stop by if you are passing, or order via our online shop.