UK toasts 2009

(by peter)

Most of us remember the summer of 2009 as a pretty soggy affair. I had the vague yet persistent feeling of having been cheated after two consecutive years of disappointing holiday seasons and the met boffins having promised us all a “barbecue summer”. Was it ever.

But it seems there may yet be reasons to be cheerful about 2009. Bordeaux is already talking up a brilliant vintage – rumours are it not quite at 2005 quality levels but not far off – and the same seems to have been true (though inevitably with different vinous results) in the UK.

The following is a press release issued on behalf of English Wine Producers.

As 2010 begins, winemakers can celebrate a vintage end to the last decade, following one of the best harvests on record. More than a number of winemakers are even talking in superlatives: ‘Fantastic’; ‘wonderful quality year’ and ‘one of the best ever’ amongst them when describing the 2009 vintage.

With a number of new vineyards also now coming in to full production, volumes are looking to be considerably higher than the last two years and likely to match (maybe even exceed) the record 2006 figures of over 3 million bottles.

Across the country the fruit quality was exceptional, with many of the highest sugars ever recorded along with good acids. Excellent fruit flavours in many of the aromatic varieties were reported, along with the traditional varieties – Chardonnay and the Pinots – which displayed potential alcohols of 11-13%. There will be many more unchaptalised wines produced this year than has been seen for some time.

The scene was set earlier in the year when little late frost was experienced, followed by a near perfect period of warm late spring and early summer weather, particularly over flowering (remember the memorably warm and almost all dry Wimbledon fortnight). A wet July replenished much needed moisture in to the ground.

Despite a cooler summer than had been predicted, the growing season was boosted by the prolonged warm autumn, giving rise to grapes of the highest quality: ripe, very clean and free of botrytis.

Yields were variable in different regions, but the largest growth area, the South East, saw a bumper crop. East Anglia experienced a very dry growing season. Some parts of the south west suffered from late frost and damp late June/ July but bolstered by the long warm autumn which resulted in good, average yields.

“The main pleasure was the cleanliness of the grapes,” comments one grower. Another added that they have “probably harvested some of the best quality grapes ever.” One winemaker stated that 2009 is “potentially one of the best vintages for wine quality of the decade.”

The UK therefore anticipates top quality wines from 2009, which are already displaying depth and character in tank. Many will have to wait, of course, for the sparkling wines from this year. 2009 has produced the highest volume of wine that will go on to secondary fermentation. As Michael Roberts of Ridgeview added: “All in all and fantastic year – a pretty wonderful build up for the London Olympics!”