Preparations now underway for harvest at Albourne Estate
PUBLISHED: 11:11 23 September 2015 | UPDATED: 11:11 23 September 2015
It's not just visitors taking part in Albourne Estate's vineyard tours who are showing an interest in the ripening grapes on Alison Nightingale's vines. Animals, from badgers to birds, on the land just outside of Hurstpierpoint, are being attracted as the swollen fruit gets nearer to being harvested.
Preparations are now underway for harvest. After a cool and damp August and an unsettled start to September the grapes are ripening – but slowly – so we will be later starting this year than in 2014. I am hoping that we will be picking our earliest ripening variety, Ortega, at the very beginning of October, with others following on after.
We have been busy in the vineyard doing everything we can to help the grapes ripen – from repeated trimming to removing more leaves around the grape bunches to actually removing some bunches altogether. This latter job is called ‘green harvesting’ as we are cutting off bunches that are still green and unripe. The aim of this is to give those bunches left on the vine the best chance of ripening fully. It’s heart breaking for me though to see fruit discarded on the ground after so much hard work to get it to this stage!
A few weeks back, the grapes went through ‘veraison’. This is the start of the ripening process and is most noticeable in the black grape varieties as this is when the grapes skin turns from green to black. During ripening the grapes swell and their sugar levels increase.
I can also tell the grapes are ripening because many animals have started showing an interest in eating them... from birds to badgers.
Meanwhile, in the winery we’ve been busy planning and ordering items we need for the upcoming harvest. Developing a harvest plan is critical at this time although it’s always difficult to predict exactly when and how much we will pick. We now take regular bunch samples to measure the ripeness levels of the grapes to help us predict, but it’s not an exact science as so much depends on the weather over the coming weeks.
The last tour planned this season is on Saturday 10 October. Please do book a place via our website if you’d like to see the vineyard during harvest. It won’t happen again for another year