As I am writing this we have just finished draining and pressing our last bunches from the 2023 Harvest. Both our Red and Pink Pet Nats are in bottle and there is still plenty of bubbling in the winery with active secondary malolactic fermentations on the go.
Since the last harvest we have renewed our focus on our soils. Over the last year various profile pits have been dug and soil scans and detailed sampling and analysis done, all aimed at improving even further our soil health in the vineyards.
Our spray program also saw some changes being made through the application of natural bio-stimulants to help better equip the vines against mildew. Our tisanes made on site using herbs and plants grown on our own soils still form the backbone of our programme. A new weather station and predictive software to monitor the weather conditions specific to our site with better accuracy was key to ensuring the timing of each spray was more precise and as effective as possible.
Spring started with an explosion of new growth, and the conditions during flowering were very good. Early Summer was warm, followed by some wet and cooler conditions, with an Indian Summer in the lead up to harvest, with September and October dry and warm. Rigorous canopy management throughout the season kept everything aerated, dry and exposed to maximum sunlight. Bigger berries meant heavier bunches and produced well above average yields. Marginally cooler average temperatures over the season meant slower ripening and a longer time for the grapes on the vine, which all contributes to the development of delicate and complex flavours in the final wines. At picking the bunches were exceptionally healthy and free from disease needing no berry sorting by hand, shortening the time from picking to pressing.
Although still very early days to assess the wines from this harvest, we have carefully selected and picked small quantities to produce traditional sparkling: a 100% Chardonnay Blanc de Blancs and a Sparkling Rosé from 100% Pinot Noir. Also still bubbling away is a still Chardonnay, fermented in our neutral, Stockinger Austrian oak barrels. Watch out for a very exciting Orange, to be blended at a later stage from various picking batches fermented in a combination of concrete eggs and cubes and seasoned oak, using skin contact and carbonic macerated Chardonnay and Albariño. The still Pinot Noir from this year is lighter in style and promises great quality and purity of fruit, Richard and Joy think possibly the best quality since the Estates’ first Harvest in 2008.
A long but crucial pruning season starts in the New Year where we shape the vines for the next harvest, and we look forward to releasing the wines made from vintage 2023 when they are ready.
Jean du Plessis
GM and Vigneron, Ancre Hill Estates
*written December 2023