In viticulture, we’re always dancing a complicated waltz with nature - and never more than at harvest. There is so much to consider when selecting the perfect days on which to harvest our crop.
By any measure, this has been an exceptional growing year - fierce heat and sunlight from late spring which accelerated flowering, followed by a long period of lowered but constant heat which has been perfect for slow ripening.
At Westwell, we grow four different varieties - all of which ripen at slightly different times. In the weeks leading up to harvest, we monitor each variety closely. We take fruit from different vines over the estate, crush, and measure sugar levels in the resulting juice.
Our wish list is always the same: high sugar levels, acid levels which are low but not too low, and great flavours. The fruit tastes great already so we will continue to let that develop for as long as possible.
In our cool, damp climate, we inevitably face disease pressure. Botrytis - a mould which affects ripening fruit, gets established in moist conditions and turns sour when wet. If wet weather is forecast and there’s little berry development, then we try and pick beforehand, always treading a knife edge of achieving optimal sugar and acid levels without risking fruit health.
We pick our Ortega first - and our Wilmes press works around the clock, gently extracting an incredibly sweet must (juice) which begins its temperature controlled ferment after settling.
Wish us luck and here’s to another brilliant vintage at Westwell and for all UK vineyards. Thanks to photographer Ady Kerry has been with us throughout the year to capture all of this on film.