Surrey’s Albury Vineyard has acquired grapes from a new vineyard which it is converting to organic viticulture, and also has plans to launch its first still Pinot Noir after surviving a fire scare last month.
Speaking to the drinks business last week, Lucy Letley who supervises marketing and events at Albury, said the vineyard was fortunate to escape without damage after a bonfire in neighbouring land got out of control.
Early last month, Marlow-based winery Harrow and Hope also had a similar incident which saw flames reaching the vineyard’s hedgerow. During this heatwave, English wineries are required to be extra vigilant towards the danger of fire in a country more accustomed to the threat of damp-induced mildew or rot.
“With this heat at the moment, fires do spread quickly,” Letley said. “The fire was in the land right next to the vineyard and we believe it was some kids who started the bonfire at night.
“There were two fire engines which drove onto the vineyard, but thankfully we were unharmed by the fire”.
This is just as well, as Letley told db that this year’s crop is “looking good” without the usual disease pressures that can hit organic vineyards, in particular, very hard.
Like other producers that have predicted one of the best and largest vintages on record, Albury is also preparing to break new ground.
“Being organic, controlling disease is hard for us here, it’s one of our main problems and the weather is crucial,” said Letley.
“This year, we got through the frost and had good fruit set and flowering.
“We’ve been green harvesting by removing the third and fourth bunches. This is always a bit of a gamble and you never really know what the weather is going to be like in September and October.
Letley added that Albury had decided to control its yield in order to ensure that all of the grapes ripened fully, in case the weather takes a turn for the worse.
“For us it’s all about quality rather than quantity,” she said. “We carried out green harvesting just in case – for us our worst outcome would be to have a massive harvest but with none of the grapes fully ripened and with the vines unduly stressed”.
She told db that they are on track to harvest two weeks ahead of schedule, meaning towards the end of September, compared to starting in the beginning to middle of October.
Planted in 2009, Albury’s organic 12-acre vineyard is planted with Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier, as well as some Seyval Blanc and Pinot Gris, and produces around 20,000 bottles a year.
“At the moment everything is looking good, the Pinots in particularly,” Letley added. “We’re thinking that this year we will be able to produce a small quantity of still red wine, perhaps a barrel full”.
This is in addition to the winery’s classic cuvée (Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Meunier), blanc de blancs (Chardonnay and Seyval Blanc), still and sparkling rosé (Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier) and eau de vie named after the vineyard dog, Attila.
The wine producer is also managing two further vineyards that are privately owned – Long Wells (planted with Seyval Blanc) and Landsdowne (planted with Champagne varietals and Sauvignon Blanc) which will increase its production.
“Landsdown will become our second site,” said Letley who said that currently, Albury manages 50% of the 10-acre vineyard, with Greyfriars taking care of the other half.
“It helps and it doesn’t help,” she continued, in reference to the increased yield. “It’s not organic yet so we can’t release it as part of our organic range, although we have started the conversion process with the aim of ultimately producing organic wines from the site.
She revealed that Albury is planning to release an sparkling rosé from the Landsdowne vineyard.
“The fact that we’re organic is very important to many of our customers, particularly in the trade, however others are more concerned with the fact our wines local,” she said.
She revealed that the winery has also seen a huge uptick in visitor numbers this summer which she believes is partly becomes “we’re more well-known now”. Plans are also afoot to group the vineyards of Surrey together in the same way as others have done in Kent, Sussex and Hampshire.