Harvest started a little later in 2015 than the previous year and as a result the last grapes arrived into the winery on Friday 6th November 2015. This was after a busy period which saw a few tonnes of late ripening Chardonnay arrive. This particular week also saw the first big rain storms of autumn, something we had been fortunate in avoiding during the early part of harvesting.
The 2015 growing season was a real test of good site selection. The more marginal sites were not quite able to ripen the fruit to optimum levels even at lower yields with the sugars at the lower end of the spectrum and acids at the higher end, very selective picking was necessary to ensure well balanced acidity levels in the final juice.
Harvest started 10 days later than in 2014 and it was the Pinot Noirs that came in first. The Pinot Noirs from Hampshire were super-ripe, with wonderful flavour, good acidity levels and a deep colour. Overall it was definitely a black grape year but the really good vineyard sites produced some very fine Chardonnay as well.
The most common cry from across the regions was that overall yields were down. Crop estimations undertaken earlier in the season proved to be too optimistic. This was down to a significant drop in average bunch weights across the board at harvest. Bunch counts were similar to 2014 but the actual weight of each bunch was down by 30 to 50 grams per bunch, leading to an average 40% decrease in volumes from those estimated.
This can be directly attributed to unsettled weather at flowering, leading to both smaller and fewer berries. Also the summer of 2015 was generally cooler than in 2014, particularly in August which is the crucial month for veraison and is the start of the ripening period.
The growing season really showed off the skills of individual vineyard managers; those who made the brave decision to green harvest fared the best. This will have reduced the overall yield but there was a stark difference in the quality of the fruit from the vineyards which did this. In addition, the efficacy of the spray programmes employed by individual vineyard managers was very apparent towards the end of harvest. There was little to no botrytis in most of the fruit that came in but the later batches, particularly of Chardonnay, where ripening was delayed by the weather. We ensured that all fruit that came into our winery was very clean and healthy.
All in all, there will be some very good wines to come out of the 2015 harvest but not across the board and those really good wines will be, by default, available in lower quantities.