So how good has the 2018 harvest really been for English Wine producers.

For those that don’t know about Fox & Fox, they are a premium sparkling wine producer located in the glorious Mayfield East Sussex region. A husband and wife venture making premium quality, exciting and award winning English Sparkling Wines. What we personally love about Fox and Fox is their ambitious nature to not only make fantastic wine but to do it with a difference.

Like their Inspiration Brut Blanc de Blanc. The 2013 vintage was the first ever varietal Pinot Gris sparkling wine produced and released in the UK. It has won Gold & Silvers from the UK Wine Awards, IEWA & Drinks Business Global Sparkling Masters in 2017.

The palate doesn’t let you down either. It’s complex tones bursting with gooseberry, peach and green plum is all kept alive with a nice minerality and crisp acidity. The long slightly honied finish just rounds this wine off perfectly and keeps you wanting more. Truly sensational.

We caught up with Jonica Fox from Fox & Fox vineyards to get their insight into the 2018 harvest.

The words below are from Jonica, enjoy her story.

Optimists are saying it’s the mark of wonderful summers to come, the more cynical are already referring to it as a once in a lifetime result. Either way this year the grapes are breaking records with best-ever sugar levels and a cornucopia of quality and quantity. The gods have been smiling. Harvest reports, both anecdotal and published, suggest that everyone has reaped the benefit of warmer days and cloudless skies. Harvest tonnages are up, grapes are deliciously ripe, in short: 2018 has been a remarkable year. A good harvest takes some getting to, even with the weather so helpfully on our side. This year has had its moments: with winter cold (think back to the bitter days of the Beast and the mini-Beast) and early summer drought broken by a cold, grey, wet August that stretched the nerves but got our vines growing again. The glorious sunshine of May, June, July and the warm finish in September have carried us on a tidal wave of GDD’s* to an earliest-ever harvest. We started picking on September 22nd and finished on October 5th

Jonica’s story continued…

Grapes don’t just grow themselves, they take care and commitment.

January delivered the coldest temperatures we have recorded, down to -11.7 °C followed by a few very sharp days in March and that meant some winter cold injury to delicate Pinot noir buds that were already formed in the vine’s woody canes. The other vines escaped either because they were in parcels with less shelter or on steeper slopes with more air movement which moved marginally warmer air over them or because, they are a variety that is slower into growth in the spring. In early March we were talking about the cold start to the year and wondering what lay ahead. In April we were worrying about planting our new vines, the ground was too wet and the planting team delayed elsewhere in England stuck in the mud with other new vineyards and their wet-beyond-capacity fields. We were all bogged down. Oh!… and then came Summer. Warm, sunshine packed days, cloudless skies, rain and cold a distant memory. And Summer stayed. May, June, July. Over 90 days non-stop. Wall to wall sunshine.

Our newly planted vines:
5,500 Chardonnay and 2,000 Pinot Meunier quickly showed signs of drought stress and had to be watered by hand. A tedious job to say the least, yet so worth it to see a field of healthy vines at the end of the season. Meanwhile the mature vines grew and grew, the critical period of pollination, known as fruit-set which broadly coincides with Wimbledon Tennis was perfect. Warm, dry, with gentle zephyrs: breezes just strong enough to dust the pollen over the vines and no rain to wash it off. Fruit-set was quick and even. That matters because its sets the pace for ripening fruit at the end of the season. An even fruit-set means grapes ripen at the same time and give us an easy pick. Once the fruit is pollinated and swelling to frozen pea dimensions we can start to anticipate the amount of fruit we could be picking at harvest time. That’s when we start to think more tactically about vine nutrition and care. We take the vine tips off to direct energy back into the vine, away from growing longer and longer canes. We strip aging leaves to expose fruit and the canes at the base of the canopy. We use foliar feeds to provide extra nutrients so that the vines don’t deplete their own carbohydrate reserves trying to ripen their berries. We want them to be strong plants, ready to work again next year. By the end of June, the fruiting Chardonnay were showing signs of strain, delicate tendrils were browning and growth visibly stood still as the lack of rain made itself felt. August raindrops were welcome. The cool, grey days less so. Just as we need warmth and sunshine to bring the vines into fruit, we need more of the same to ripen that fruit so a cold end to the season can be a real problem. One that September solved for us. We picked grapes this year in T shirts, ate picnic lunches outside and cleaned up and stored the harvest crates basking in the glow of warm sunshine. The vine leaves are now returning energy to the vines and the canes are glowing fox-red with health and vigour. This sets us up well for next year.
So: vintage 2018?
Full of the promise of some really good wines, full of flavour, abundant and generous with enough acidity for elegance and balance. This year we haven’t just been picking grapes, we’ve been picking happiness. *(Growing degree days are a measure of temperature expressed as a day-equivalent tally that allow us to predict vine growth stages and plan our farming accordingly. High GDD’s generally mean an early harvest. This year our GDD tally between April 1st and Oct 6th when our last grapes were picked is 944 against 855 last year and 784 as a ten-year average).