The Notebook

Harvest begins at Hambledon

Harvest begins at Hambledon

After much nervous waiting and poring over the weather forecasts, we finally started harvesting our grapes on Thursday. In one day alone we were able to pick around 8 tonnes of mature, healthy Pinot Noir fruit, filling our small Coquard press twice over. It was a huge achievement! We've now moved onto the Pinot Meunier and expect to start picking the Chardonnay some time in the next 10 days, touch wood.

Ian proudly cuts the first Pinot Noir.

We assembled bright and early to take our instructions from vineyard manager Peter Crabtree, MD Ian Kellett and head winemaker Hervé Jestin. As the vineyard team set off into Home Vineyard with our 24 professional agency pickers, mostly from Poland, Hervé and our resident winemaker Antoine Arnault began testing the sugar and acidity levels in each parcel. "The Champagne harvest only finished yesterday," said Hervé, "so it was a very early start for me to get here in time. But I'm very excited to see how things are developing. The potential for 2013 is looking really good for all three varieties."

Hervé enjoys a welcome cup of coffee after his long journey!

By 9.00am when family, friends and Hambledon Club members started arriving to help out, the professional pickers had already harvested their first trailer load of grapes from Home Vineyard. Steve Lowrie, our vineyard assistant, took our enthusiastic volunteers out to the new vineyard and before long the sense of infectious comraderie and competition over who could pick the most grapes was palpable. This was a real team effort by all.

Someone on high was obviously smiling on us as the sun came out by mid morning and the temperature scales hit a balmy 19.5 degrees - not at all what you would expect in the UK in mid-October!

Steve Lowrie enjoys the sun!

Spirits were high as the first four tonnes of Pinot Noir were piled into the Coquard press just after lunch. It felt like a real triumph! As Ian Kellett explains: "The sense of relief and jubilation when you have safely gathered in the harvest is something that all British farmers share. We may be wine producers here at Hambledon, but this is still a truly agricultural business and that feeling of harvest festival applies to us as much as it does to our fellow arable and fruit farmers."

So now all we have to do is keep our fingers crossed that the fine weather continues until we have safely gathered all our fruit this year. More later......