"So how was your first harvest?"
That’s the question everyone’s been asking as we finish our first harvest as owners of Astley Vineyard.
I only wish I knew the answer!
Of course, I can describe the harvest by the numbers:-
Grape Yield (tonne)
Madeleine Angevine 2.5
Sauvignon Blanc .4
TOTAL 9.3 (+6% vs 2016)
I can parade all sorts of obscure statistics about the levels of sugar (ranging from 68 to 100) and acid (5.6 to 13.4).
I can tell you that we harvested on 6 days between 6th September (the earliest in Astley’s history) and 25th October (one of the latest), and that 36 people picked for a total of 290 hours. And that they picked at a rate of 0.033 tonnes per hour!!
But what does all that mean? How “was” our first harvest?
Well, on the human level, it was great fun. We were overwhelmed by the help, support and companionship of friends, neighbours and the loyal stalwart pickers of yesteryear (every one of them a “retired astronaut” according to our predecessor, Jonty. He knows some interesting people…!).
Some memorable moments included:-
our 5 foot nothing human dynamo, Matleena, humping crates of grapes around like a whirling dervish;
our very own paparazzo, Don, popping up everywhere to take his amazing photos (I turned round to find him on the trailer, sandwiched between the grape boxes, at one stage); and
the feeling of “living the dream” as the autumn sun bathed our vineyard in a golden light, and the happy buzz of chatting pickers was punctuated by the cries of the buzzards. Truly special.
And on the viticultural level? I have a sneaky suspicion that 2017 will prove to be a good year. Obviously, we’ve got no benchmark and no experience to judge by. But the grapes were healthy, tasty and plentiful. The weather gods smiled on us throughout. And our two slightly brave gambles (to save all our Siegerrebe for a late harvest wine; and to try for a single variety Sauvingon Blanc) seem to have paid off.
But we will only know for sure how good the 2017 vintage will be next year when we get to sample and blend the wines. So only then will we be able to say how it all went. Until then, we get to relax, safe in the knowledge that, at the very least, we have done our first harvest.
I say “relax” but next on the agenda is to put on (and survive) the infamous Harvest Lunch…hope we’ve got enough wine!