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Lyme Bay’s record harvest a challenge, though fantastically exciting

English Wine 6th November 2019
Chardonnay grapes on the vine

The first harvest being managed by new winemaker Michael Dollan will set a new record and has challenges beyond just scale, though undaunted the team are very inspired – and busy!

Having managed to take in nearly three times the volume of fruit intended in 2018, the team at Lyme Bay Winery invested to increase capability and capacity in anticipation of welcoming around 350 tonnes of grapes in a matter of weeks.

Having geared up and with an experienced winemaker at the helm they are now working flat out to handle the fruit as it moves from vineyard to winery.

Michael, having worked on dozens of harvests in both the Northern and Southern hemispheres, took a moment to comment on his first harvest in England. He said: “This is a vital few weeks for everyone at Lyme Bay and for me especially – we need to get this right and so far we are.

“We set ourselves the challenge of increasing the volume of grapes processed and to hold to our exacting standards, if not look to take quality up a notch.

“I have managed much bigger harvests, though working in a new country and with new growers makes this demanding and exciting in equal measure.”

The mention of growers is an important consideration, as Michael explains: “I feel a great responsibility to growers. We respect absolutely the importance of what they do and that means that when they harvest and we process is an ongoing conversation rather than something to schedule at our convenience.

“This season the picking times have been less predictable than last year given the variable weather. We work as flexibly as we can and benefit – to an extent – from working with growers in the south east as well as the south west.”

Turning to the experience to date, he added: “We consider each parcel of fruit, though in general we are seeing small berries that offer a concentration of flavours – I’m seeing some ‘popping’ flavours that are really promising.

A crate of harvested Pinot Noir grapes

“The relationship with growers is really working well. They are clearly picking selectively and focused on quality over quantity – which absolutely delights me.”

“As we press then start fermentation we play close attention to each varietal. As busy as I am I have already started to think ahead to how we can maximise the quality of what we are receiving now across our varietals and blends as well as our still and sparkling wines.

“What we are taking in is pretty much the same as last year with the exception of some increase in champagne clones to support the increased demand for our Pinot Noir Rosé and sparkling wines.

“We have much to do for this harvest, though the team here knows this is only the start of it for us. The potential to produce some fantastic wines, and perhaps some new wines, more than sustains us – it really excites us.”

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