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November at Albourne Estate vineyard: post-harvest

PUBLISHED: 13:00 25 November 2015 | UPDATED: 13:00 25 November 2015


This is the time of year that Sussex vineyard owner Alison Nightingale does not have worry about the weather for a few months. However, there is plenty at Albourne Estate to be preoccupied with, from selling Christmas gift packs to arranging a stall at a ‘pop up’ shop in Chichester on December 5.

Harvest is over and I can breathe a sigh of relief. Now the English weather can throw what it likes at us and I won’t worry for a few months!

In the end the grape quality of the 2015 vintage was much better than I had dared hope for given the poor summer and late ripening.

Volumes on some varieties were down on 2014 but in the end this was a blessing in disguise… as the lower the yields the easier it is for the vines to ripen what grapes they do support – so in a late season, low yields are a critical requirement for achieving quality.

After a poor August, there was just enough good weather in September and October for us to pick some lovely fruit and I am looking forward to the 2015 wines which I know have a lot to live up to after our incredible success with our 2014’s.

The vineyard gate is firmly shut for two months now while I concentrate on the wine making and sales side of the business. Come early next year we’ll commence the winter pruning of the vines… but now they are going into a period of dormancy and rest (don’t we all wish we could do that) as the leaves turn colour and fall.

In the winery, all the wines have now completed alcoholic fermentation, which lasted from between six to 22 days depending on variety and our desired style.

The wines we intend to make into sparkling (which we call base wines) are undergoing a different type of fermentation called malo-lactic fermentation which changes the acids present in the wine. This involves warming the wines to encourage the fermentation to take place and spending a few hours in the lab checking on progress by placing tiny dots of the wines on special paper. It takes me back to school chemistry classes!

Meanwhile, we are developing a special gift box for Christmas containing three of our award winning wines. This will be available for sale from our cellar door (for pre-Christmas opening times please see and

If you are in the Chichester area on December 5 come along to the Vicars’ Hall (10am – 5pm) where representatives from five different Sussex and Hampshire vineyards are presenting and selling their wines in a special ‘pop-up’ shop.


October at Albourne Estate vineyard: harvest in full swing - With harvest in full swing, there’s a frenzy of jobs for vineyard owner Alison Nightingale at Albourne

What is it like to run your own vineyard in the UK? - Alison Nightingale, owner of Albourne Estate - I set up Albourne Estate, a 30 acre vineyard and winery near Brighton, in 2010 and last year we launched our first wines. In this monthly column I’ll be telling you about my experiences.


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