DAVENPORT VINEYARDS
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2016 Harvest - a year of two halves
©2016 Davenport Vineyards | Limney Farm, Castle Hill, Rotherfield, East Sussex TN6 3RR UK
The first half:
The cool spring weather meant that flowering was a week late, although we did escape the frosts that affected many vineyards. The vines produced fewer flowers this year and so in June we were already anticipating a smaller crop, but then it was unusually cold and wet during the flowering period. The bunches managed to set fruit, but bunches were smaller than we hoped with significant number of unpollinated berries (the "hen and chicken" effect). Phil, the vineyard manager, went on sabbatical from April, so Ben had to step in and look after the vines over the summer. Some early downy mildew was spotted on the Chardonnay in June, but this was kept under control with a copper spray.

The second half:
In July the weather improved and we have had the driest July to October season since 2011, with only 129mm of rain in four months, compared to 117mm of rain in June! Plenty of sunshine also brought the fruit forward. Apart from a touch of powdery mildew on the Bacchus (an annual event in our vineyard), there was no significant mildew on the grapes. By August, Phil returned from working in Galicia and the Czech Republic and we could show him an impressive crop. As harvest approached we purchased a leaf stripping machine to allow some sunlight onto the developing bunches, backed up with plenty of manual leaf removal. In the end picking started on the 19th September, about 5 days earlier than average. Sugar levels were some of the highest we have ever seen; acids were balanced and flavours are wonderful.

In the winery:
As usual we don't add any yeast, enzymes, sulphur dioxide or fining agents during harvest. For those interested in biodynamics, all grapes were picked on Fruit or flower days and we had 2 full moons during harvest. The wines have fermented very cool and slow, with no need for chilling, helping to preserve the aromas in the grapes. Volumes are around half of 2015 (which was our biggest ever yield) and about 25% down on the 5-year average.

Highlights:
" The great weather during September and October, ensuring properly ripe fruit
" Highest yields from Pinot Meunier and Huxelrebe at 2.2 tonnes per acre
" Beautifully clean grapes with only organic management.
" Our amazing team of pickers - thank you!
" Highest sugar levels I can remember across the board, everything between 75 and 88 Oeschle
" Wonderful flavours
" Easy, slow and steady fermentations
" The Bevertown brewery delivering a case of beer to the winery mid-harvest

Low points:
" Without doubt the badgers have caused more difficulties this year, mostly deterred by electric fencing. However, they did manage to devastate our small crop of Auxerrois down to almost nothing.
" The low yields on Pinot Noir with only 5 to 10 very small bunches per vine.
" The average yield of 1.46 kgs per vine overall

Overall we have some wines that have great potential. It would be ideal if we have more litres of wine in tank, but at the end of picking we still have lots to smile about.