Winemaker is Steve Brooksbank, at Bagborough, near Shepton Mallet (pictured above right with Iain and our son Ned). We take our hand-harvested grapes to Steve for de-stemming, crushing and pressing, decide jointly on the winemaking. We aim for as little intervention as possible, allowing the wines to express the vintage, the variety and the terroir. Fermentation is in stainless steel tanks. From 2010 -2015 we have matured 225 litres of one of the wines wine for a few weeks in our single, English-hand-coopered, French oak barrique.
We get our wines back the following spring in plain bottles that we capsule and label by hand. Our labels are FSC certified “Tintoretto” paper. We use lighter weight, (400g) bottles to keep our wines’ carbon footprint down, and have then sealed with top-quality corks, because we’re romantic and like the traditional pop.
Our wines have all been submitted for and passed the official UK wine quality scheme, which involves independent analysis and professional tasting. They are all English Wine PDO (PDO - Protected Designation of Origin).
English Wine PDO is the highest quality standard for English wines. English Regional Wine PGI is of similar technical standard but can include wine from hybrid vines and wines with no, or little, added sulphites. An official list of English PDO and PGI wines is on the UK Vineyards Association website
2014 has been dubbed “The Vintage of Dreams”. A heavy crop and enough warmth and sun to ripen it well, with just enough rain to swell the grapes. It was an easy growing year with little disease pressure and a fairly early harvest. The wine is promising well and the recently-released Jane’s 2014 was awarded a Silver Medal in the Summer 2015 UKVA competition, pre-release. You can taste the Leonora’s 2014 at the vineyard but we’re not releasing it yet. We have high hopes of it and want to wait till it’s properly ready.
2015 was another cold spring and also a cool summer, a difficult year to ripen grapes, but saved by a warm, sunny September. The Kernling sugars were respectable but it struggled to colour up and the acid remained stubbornly high. We tasted the wines in March 2016 before bottling, and whilst the Madeleine was good, the Kernling lacked intensity in the mid-palate. Winemaker Steve suggested we taste a blend of the two varietal wines in the proportion we had, 62% Madeleine, 38%. Once tasted, we all agreed the blend was greater than the sum of the parts, so our 2015 vintage is another “Elizabeth’s”.
It was a small vintage. On the Madeleine because we had re-worked the vines, cutting back aging gap-filling cordons to give the replacement babies room to grow, knowing that this investment in the future would reduce the crop by a third, then we had had quite a damaging spring frost (-2.8C) that lost us about half the buds in the bottom quadrant of the lower block. The Kernling just had a duvet year after producing a big crop in 2014. We made 2,680 bottles, less than half our 2014 vintage, but the resulting wine gained a Silver in the UK national competition on its first outing. We were chuffed too that its barrel matured version, the last from our hand-coopered English-made barrique, was awarded a Bronze in the very tough UK Wine Awards 2017.
2016 was a dream year for vine growers with rain and sun in all; the right places. Our grapes were as near perfect as theyve ever been. Our "Jane's 2016" has been flying off the shelves since it was released. We're keeping the Leonora's for now. Worth investing in some bottle age before releasing. The barrel matured 16 is the first in our Seguin Moreau "Fraicheur" barrique and already exciting interest pre-release.
2017 was our earliest year ever. The Jane's 2017 will be released in early summer 2018. The Leonora's 2017 will be cellared for a year or two. The vintage was reviewed inmore detail in our Jan '18 blogpost .
Harvest trailer loaded in the field with two layers of tubs of Madeleine Angevine
Leaving Oatley next morning for the hour's drive to Steve's winery
Steve's son Harry unloading the grapes
Steve checking the acid and sugar of the free-run juice
Wine home! Stashing the stillages of new wine in our 17C barn at Oatley before stacking in our insulated store
First into the crusher de-stemmer
Crushed grapes pumped to the press
The wine spends the next 6 months here in the tanks
Steve siphoning a tank sample from our barrique