Hot sultry days and occasional showers means a bumper harvest and sunshine in a glass for the winemakers at Chilford Hall, near Linton.
“This year’s been pretty much perfect for wine production,” said Mark Barnes, wine maker and vineyard manager at Chilford Hall.
“We got the conditions we really want. It’s been warm, dry and still.”
“We had a good harvest last year and I anticipate that this year will be better in terms of both quality and quantity.
“What the grapes need is lots of warmth and lots of sunshine.
“It ripens the fruit and gives it more natural sugars. We get a more balanced wine.
“The rain we’ve had helps too. We have a particularly good aspect here and good, chalky ground, which is free draining, so the vines don’t get wet.
“The rain means the fruit stays cleaner so we don’t have to spray it as much.”
Throughout the year, the 20 acre vineyard at Chilford Hall is run by Mr Barnes and a single assistant.
In December and January, the vines, whichare mainly northern French and German grape varieties, are pruned to ensure even growth and in April the buds burst.
At this point, the vines are vulnerable to frost but, because of this year’s mild weather, the harvest is expected to be a good one.
The vines flower during June and develop throughout August in time to be picked at the end of October.
During the harvest, the vineyard takes on up to 20 extra people.
All the grapes are picked by hand before being pressed, fermented, mixed with sugars, nutrients and yeast and left to mature.
The vineyard’s sparkling wines get slightly different treatment.
After a second fermentation in the bottle, during which a special piece of equipment called a gyropalette separates the sediment from the wine, c02 is released in the bottle, adding the wine’s trademark fizz.
The sediment is frozen in the neck of the bottle and then removed. This is known as degorgement.
Glen Mejias, director and general manager of Chilford Hall, said: “The vineyard is one of the things that brings heart and integrity to the rest of the business.
“It was planted in 1972. It’s still a rare thing to come across a vineyard in England.”
Mr Barnes has been a winemaker at Chilford Hall since 2006, having previously been in the Royal Air Force.
“English wine making was coming into its own,” he added. “There’s an awful lot of interest at the moment. People are always very pleasantly surprised. English sparkling wine is as good as, or better than, French.
“With what we’re growing here, we can beat French Champagne.