Kent’s vineyards rue hostile weather as 2012 vintage suffers





England’s premier wine growing region Kent has suffered at the hands of the hostile weather this year, with one winery following Nyetimber’s recent example by deciding not to harvest its grapes and another predicting losses of nearly half its stock.

The hugely acclaimed Chapel Down Wines, cultivated in the winery and vineyard in Tenterden, has produced less than half their normal amount of bottles following one of the wettest Junes on record.

The 2012 Vintage has taken a battering from the nigh on Biblical weather, with grapevines across Great Britain being afforded little time to flower.

Chapel Down’s chief executive, Frazer Thompson, told Kent Online: “The English wine industry’s producing around two and half million bottles of wine a year on average - this year I’ll be surprised if we’re producing much more than a million bottles.”

While this year’s vintage has fallen foul of the weather, English wines have enjoyed a stellar few years in the industry and Thompson suggests Chapel Down will not endure a long-term side-effects.

“We’ve set up a successful business model," Thompson continued, "that sources our fruit from Essex and Suffolk right the way round to the Hampshire border, so if it’s particularly bad in one area we don’t have a complete collapse.”

Although Chapel Down have to a certain extent negotiated some of the pitfalls of a very wet summer, neighbouring company The Kent Vineyard in Cranbrook have been less fortunate.

Set up in 2009, The Kent Vineyard was due to produce its first vintage this year having cancelled last year’s due to heavy frost, but sadly their efforts have been curtailed once again. According to the aforementioned source, they could only harvest enough grapes for 100 bottles this time around, so have therefore decided not send them to a professional wine-maker.

Instead, the company are intending to learn how to cultivate the grapes themselves in order to produce their own wines and lessen the effects on the increasingly predictable adverse weather.

The Kent Vineyard’s announcement comes on the back of Nyetimber’s decision not to harvest its grapes this year.

The multi-award winning vineyard in West Sussex suggested the quality and volume of the 2012 harvest would not be a true representative of their lofty standards.

At the beginning of the month Cherie Spriggs, winemaker at Nyetimber, intimated the decision was a difficult one given the financial repercussions for the company but suggested it was an important means of guarding the reputation of Nyetimber.

"My first obligation as the winemaker is to ensure the quality of Nyetimber's wines, and we have collectively come to the decision that the grapes from 2012 cannot deliver the standards we have achieved in the past and will again in the future.” Spriggs told the BBC.

"The decision to not make wine from 2012 is a difficult one, not just for me but for our whole team. However, we all know that maintaining quality is paramount."

Nyetimber have won the Best Worldwide Sparkling Wine award at the International Wine and Spirit Competition three times. Soils at the vineyard at West Chiltington are geologically identical to that of the Champagne region, but the vines require warmer weather.
 
Main image by Andrew Callow 
 
 

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