Veraison – the name for the ripening of grape berries just before the harvest.
It’s such an exciting time to visit a vineyard. Red varieties are beginning to show their true colours and the whites are turning transluscent and pearly as the sweetness reaches bursting point.
In the UK autumn days can be golden and vineyards are situated in some of our most beautiful countryside.
There’s been a surge in visibilty of English wine since we first discovered it for ourselves and helping with the harvest is part of that growth.
With 522 commercial vineyards and 164 wineries throughout England and Wales annual production has rocketed from just under 6 million bottles a year to 15.6 million in 2018. That’s some growth spurt.
Plonk a compass on a map of the British Isles and you’ll find vineyards north, south, east and west.
Lovells Vineyard sits in the beautiful Malvern Hills just below Worcester with Coddington and Furnace Projects in nearby Herefordshire. And the most northerly commercial vineyard is Ryedale in North Yorkshire.
Two thirds of production is for sparkling wine, using the champagne method with traditional grapes like Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier.
Sparkling and still English wines
But more and more wine-makers are experimenting with still table wines, with whites ranging from dry to medium and even some dessert variations.
Soft, summery rosés are becoming increasingly popular and, due to the cooler growing conditions here, light and fruity reds from Dornfelder, Rondo and Gamay grapes are growing in popularity.
In other words there’s an English or Welsh wine suitable for any occasion, not just an alternative fizz for weddings and anniversaries.
And of those 522 vineyards more than 200 are open to visitors.
Depending on the grape variety and the weather, harvest can happen from mid September right through to the end of October and it’s all hands on deck to get the precious fruits in at just the right time.
If you’re a real fan of wine why not see if a vineyard near you uses volunteers to help out at harvest time? We’ve taken part in two special days – one at Bluebell Vineyard in Sussex and one in Kent at Woodchurch Wine.
Where to help with the English Wine harvest
Not every vineyard is set up to welcome guests at harvest-time.
Don’t want to help out but still want to see English wine-making for yourself?
Many vineyards remain open to drop-ins even at this busy time but it’s best to check directly with the vineyard you’re planning to visit and be prepared to keep out of the way if work is going on.
Photographs © rosemaryandporkbelly.co.uk