Updated: Nov 2
Special Case Study - Biddenden Vineyards
Having seen three previous vintages with outstanding growing conditions through 2018-2020, this year’s harvest, and in fact the 2021 growing season as a whole has certainly come with its fair share of challenges for English wine producers. However, for Biddenden, with well over 40 vintages under their belt and three generations of winemaking expertise to call upon, it’s been more of a return to the winemaking conditions in the UK they are used to – and can most definitely work with.
From the late frosts in April, to rain at flowering time, long runs of days with little sunshine and then warm, wet weather into harvest, it’s been Biddenden’s unique growing methods, a keen eye for and understanding of the importance of plant health & nutrition and the ability to react quickly, calling on their years of experience that has paid dividends in producing a crop which sees a good volume of juice now in tank for the 2021 vintage.
Back to Normal
Contrary to many of the vineyards which have been planted in recent years, often with a focus on Champagne varieties (Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier & Chardonnay), the majority of Biddenden’s 23 acres is made up of early ripening varieties, something which has played in their favour and meant that grapes were off the vine and in the tank well before the weather turned and deluges of rain began. Although harvest began 10 days later than in 2020, on 20th September 2021, this is closer to a ‘normal’ start date and unlike younger vineyards who may deem this a late harvest, this is where the knowledge built over many years puts Biddenden in a place they are very familiar with. And it wasn’t just an early start this year, but a swift harvest too, as picking was complete in less than a month with the final variety, Gamay Noir, picked on 18th October 2021.
It Starts in the Vineyard
Julian Barnes, Managing Director, comments “We very much work to the belief that winemaking happens in the vineyard and in a year like 2021, this is proven. With a strong focus on agronomy, we’ve been meticulous about ensuring the vines have been at optimum health to ensure the best possible picking at harvest time.” He continues “That said, our growing systems have also been a large contributing factor to the success of this year’s harvest. Higher, wider rows mean that on the whole we are not affected by frost and that we maximise sun contact, with some days seeing sun reaching the fruit right through until 5pm.” Growing a total of 12 varieties also has its benefits, as each variety is picked as & when it is ripe, in its individual block, rather than having acres of one variety which then needs to be picked in one go. Picking at Biddenden is carried out by local people who work through each variety by hand, before being pressed on site at Biddenden. The maximum distance the