Julia Trustram Eve, the particularly efficient marketing director of English Wine Producers, wrote this report, based on accounts gathered last week from vineyards in Kent, Sussex, Surrey, Hampshire, Worcestershire, Gloucestershire and South West England. In our picture, 2013 grapes are picked in long shadows at Hambledon in Hampshire.
It's been an interesting year for English vineyards and overall reports are positive for the 2013 vintage. As this is being written, however, some vineyards are still harvesting. The later harvest is due to the delayed budburst, following the long, cold winter earlier in the year, and subsequent later flowering. The long, warm summer provided ideal conditions for healthy development of both the vines and fruit, however. But the cooler autumn and particularly rain added to the delay in the start of harvest. Generally all vineyards started harvesting later than usual - on average by about 10 days.
Overall the fruit is clean - although as harvesting is prolonged, so has been the risk of botrytis on any remaining fruit. Botrytis, however, has not been a widespread issue this year.
Yields generally have been very good, but fluctuated from amazingly high to disappointing (given the summer and all the expectations it brought) and are coming in 'below average'. As ever, some grape varieties have done better than others.
The challenge has been to achieve the right balance of sugar and acid ripeness; the cooler, wetter autumn slowed, or delayed, the rise in sugar levels and it took time for the acids [always relatively high in England and Wales - JR] to come down. As a result, this will probably be a very good year for sparkling wines. Achieving the right ripeness before grapes can be harvested has been a challenge for quite a few vineyards.
Some vineyards reported excellent phenolic ripeness and some very good flavours coming through from the harvest. This is perhaps the contribution of the warm, dry summer. This is likely to be a better year for sparkling that varietal still wines.
Overall 2013 looks to be a reasonably high-yielding year due to a number of factors: the sparkling wine varieties have done well (the traditional Champagne varieties now account for 45% of total plantings); higher acreage coming in to production; some other varieties such as Seyval Blanc coming in with good yields.
A further report will be issued later in the year when all the harvesting has taken place. Confirmation of yields will be issued next spring.