The New Year began with a succession of deep hoar-frosts which, thankfully, failed to fulfil their promise: the ensuing spring was both warm and wet, bud-burst was a week earlier than the previous year and we were entirely free of late spring frosts.
A heat wave in the last two weeks of June, with temperatures reaching 29°C, created near perfect conditions for flowering and by now the year was beginning to shape up nicely. A warm summer followed, with average rainfall ensuring good growth, and by early August the vines and their fruit were in good condition and showing above average yields. All that was needed now for the perfect year -
as véraison set in - was an Indian summer.
August was disappointing, though, and the prize of a truly great year seemed to be slipping away. Sunshine hours were relatively low, although temperatures, particularly at night, remained above average. But what followed in September and the first two weeks of October will not be quickly forgotten: week after week of almost unbroken sunshine ensued, compensating for three years of feeble English summers and nation-wide frustration. Sugars crept up week by week and acids fell in return. By harvest, the leaves of the vines and the surrounding woods were a riot of golds and browns. Picking started at the Wooldings on 12th October in dry but overcast conditions.
Average sugar/acid balances of 10.1°Bé / 10.3 g/L were near perfect and yields were above average. It was a glorious year for Coates & Seely to experience its first English vintage.
If 2009 began cold, then the start to 2010 was even colder. Snowfalls of up to 12" in north Hampshire were as extreme as anything experienced since the early 1960s, while night-time temperatures plunged to as low as -15°C.
The cold appeared to have spent its force by early March. Spring returned to normal and a
mid-March budburst followed. But on the night of 8th of May an unusually severe ground frost set in, with temperatures of -3°C as cold as any May frost in thirty years. Fortunately, vine-damage was limited and none but the bottom north-east corner of the old vineyard at Wooldings suffered. By early summer, secondary buds on the damaged vines had replenished a good proportion of the loss.
Another spectacular fortnight of sun and above average temperatures in the high twenties resulted in a second year of perfect flowering, with yields promising to be higher than the previous year. Temperatures continued slightly above average through the summer, as did rainfall, resulting in
relatively high disease pressure.
The much hoped for Indian summer of the previous year never quite arrived, although temperatures in September and October remained above average. By the time of harvesting of the Pinot Noir at Wooldings, on 11th October, average sugar/acid balances were a very satisfactory 9.8°Bé / 11.1 g/L. The fruit was clean and the quality outstanding. It is invidious to compare 2010 to 2009, as the latter year was quite exceptional. But the fruit in 2010 was plentiful and of excellent quality.
2011 could hardly have been in starker contrast to 2010. The latter’s record snowfalls and near-arctic winter temperatures were matched in 2011 with one of the warmest winters on record. Spring continued with all-time record high temperatures - we regularly picnicked outside in the vineyards in both March and April - so that by the end of May the growth cycle was two to three weeks ahead of the previous year.
2010’s glorious flowering conditions were
then countered in 2011 with arguably the worst flowering conditions in memory. In the middle of June the temperature dropped by up to 7 degrees centigrade and the heavens opened with a near-week of rain. As was the case with most of Southern England the Pinot Noirs in particular, struggled, and by July/August extensive milerandage was pointing to disappointing yields, again in stark contrast to 2010’s bumper crop.
A somewhat indifferent English summer, of average day and night-time temperatures, sporadic sunshine and typical rainfall, followed. But unlike in 2010 we did enjoy another wonderful Indian Summer. Three weeks of nearly unbroken sunshine in the
latter half of September and early October brought average sugars across the vineyards to 10.3°Bé amidst another riot of amber and russet Autumn colours. Harvesting took place in the week of 10th October. Whilst yields were very significantly down on the record year of 2010, the quality of the fruit was again exceptional; we can therefore confidently look forward to (albeit smaller) quantities of wonderful 2011 wines.