The perfect storm?
We have had almost the perfect storm this year in Burge’s Field. But for the early (and late) frosts, 2018 would have been the ideal growing season. From flowering in mid June, through fruit set in early July, to veraison (when the berries take on their final colour) in September, there was barely a drop of rain, nothing but long, sunny days with warm breezes. Thanks to the vast, sponge-like mass of Cretaceous chalk on which the vineyard lies, the deep-rooted vines were never short of water (though the same could not be said for our cover crops, some of which didn’t even germinate until the wet few days in mid-August), and the vines luxuriated in the warmth. In each of the past three years we have picked an average of 49 tonnes at harvest – this year we had 143 tonnes.
Besides the lovely weather, two other factors contributed to this amazing harvest. The vines are hitting the start of maturity at eight years of age (with a decade or two to go at least) and, possibly most importantly of all, after five diligent years, Phil has achieved an ideal balance in the winter pruning. We use a double Guyot system where two gently arched canes provide anywhere between 10 and 20 shoots on which the vines produce leaves and flowers and fruit in subtle balance.
The proof of the storm's perfection lies not just in our yields of almost 6 tonnes per acre, but also in the magnificent ripeness of most of the crop. When so heavily loaded with grapes, the vines often struggle to ripen them and the quality suffers but, apart from one clone that overburdened itself, these were some of the sweetest and ripest grapes we have so far produced.
I can barely wait for 2022 and beyond when this harvest will finally show us its full, fragrant and opulent beauty. Watch out especially for a special blend made only of some exquisite late-harvested Chardonnay....