Born to be Wild.

Born to be wild.

In life, we all like to have a bit of control over things. That reassuring feeling that everything will go to plan and while nothing is ever guaranteed, you expect things to turn out well. In the winemaking world, this is what happens when you make your wine with a commercial cultured yeast. The vast majority of wine is now made using strains that are pretty predictable and will do the job quickly without too much risk. This being the case, why did we decide last year to go back to the wild side and let our grapes ferment with the natural yeasts to be found in the vineyard? The answer is that there is research that suggests that no two  vineyards have the same finger print and so you are tasting the unique product of our environment. The process was pretty nerve wracking. A commercial strain does its job in a week or two but our indigenous Somerset yeasts were still slowly working away until after Christmas. The results? We couldn’t be happier. We think that our newly …
A Vintage Year Part 2. Those of you with memories that go back as far as last September will know that I wrote in The Leveller about the potential for the 2018 English harvest and I’m glad to say, it seems that potential has been realised. You are never quite sure how things will turn out until you taste the finished wine but, winemakers with much longer memories than me are saying that it’s the best harvest that they have known in this country. What makes it great is that we got quantity and quality, anybody that was here on harvest day will attest that the grapes tasted amazing with real intensity of flavour.  One question is, where will all this English wine go. The answer is that the big producers have been having to hold back on sales as they just haven’t had the stock and so this will allow them to grow both here and in particular, in North America which as a huge appetite for what we’re doing.  The futures bright and the future's fizzy!

Wine Tip of the month. I think that I wri…
A Winemaker’s best friend.
Here we are in December and the year has flown by! It must be something to do with getting older as it seems like only weeks ago that we were planning our vineyard work and wine making for the year. It’s a nice time for us, the wine is safely in tank and the vineyard is  completely dormant and so we have winter pruning to look forward to in the new year but for now, it’s a chance to sit on the sofa in front of the fire. We do have one vital task though , recruiting a new vineyard dog.
Our dog Fred arrived one week before we planted the vineyard. He was just a year old and we were already his fourth owners. It wasn’t his fault, he was just a regular energetic young Labrador but through circumstance he was shuffled around between people and was completely untrained. Like all great dogs, he quickly became part of the family regularly entertaining visitors and stealing our thunder during vineyard tours. Sadly we lost him after a short illness in the summer and so…
The positive vibe around 2018 got me to thinking about  the word vintage.  Its literal meaning  is the wine of a single year as opposed to a blend of various harvests. This is how we use it in the trade but, it also has a positive connotation as being applied to something of exceptional quality.  Largely this comes from wines like Champagne and Port where the regular products are blends and traditionally they only made wine from a single vintage in the really good years.  One thing that you do see is that when you get a really great vintage in one place, news spreads and people assume that it applies to all regions. When I first started in the  business we were selling the truly wonderful 1982 Bordeaux  and on the back of it, demand for 1982 Burgundy increased despite them making pretty thin and dilute wines. In hot countries there is less variation in climate and so less variation between vintages and there’s a case for saying that due to global warming, the same is starting to happen…
Snobs and Bores. Snob noun a person who believes that their tastes in a particular area are superior to those of other people.
Bore noun one that causes weariness and restlessness through lack of interest one that causes boredom: such as a dull or tiresome person
There’s nothing worse than a wine snob unless, it’s a wine bore. The difficulty is, I think I may be one of them. I’m generally pretty happy with a glass of anything made from fermented grapes. It could be a nice cold  Wolf Blass Chardonnay costing six quid in Tescos  or a poncey Bordeaux Chateau that’s been lovingly stored for a decade just waiting for the perfect moment to be poured. The only thing that matters is that it’s a good drink. My problem ( lies on couch and stares at the ink blot on the wall) is that having spent a quarter of a century buying, selling and making the stuff, I have retained an abnormally large amount of information about booze with the emphasis on abnormal!  So, here’s some advice. If you see me and ask …


I’m writing this in the continuous long Sunday afternoon that is the week in-between Christmas and New Year. The intake of food and drink at Higher Plot and at various relative’s abodes has been prodigious and the urge to write an article about further indulgence isn’t as strong as it could be. We don’t feel too guilty about taking advantage of the Slackmus period partly because the end of the holidays means getting our big coats on for the start of winter pruning and also, I’ve just read an article about the alcohol intake of one of the greats of the wine trade 90 year old Michael Broadbent’ His son wrote -
"Though my parents were in the wine business they aren't big drinkers. Champagne for breakfast because orange juice is so boring without Champagne. Then nothing until lunch, except perhaps you'd be given Madeira because their coffee was so bad. But otherwise nothing except for a Bloody Mary. They'd then have white and red wine with lunch and Port after, but that&#…

Post Harvest R&R

By the time you are reading this, me and Mrs Grape will have our feet up, furry slippers on and will be on the sofa drinking cream sherry and nibbling Garibaldi biscuits whilst shouting at the telly Gogglebox style. Fred the vineyard dog will be asleep in his bed dreaming about that day when all those people turned up in waterproofs and wellies to disturb his tenacious all day snoozing.  With the help of our friends and neighbours we will have harvested six or seven tons of grapes that have been crushed and are happily bubbling away in a spic and span winery in near Bridport. 

The trouble is, as I’m writing this, we are four days before  harvest and my weather forecast habit has gone completely haywire. I am bingeing on a random rotation of half hourly Met Office, BBC and Accuweather. I am willing the band of rain predicted for Sunday to arrive early and be through by early morning. In my wilder moments I have contemplated reaching out to the owners of any convenient off shore wind tu…