Winemakers gather amazing grapes after late sunshine saves the harvest

Flint Vineyard directors have started the 2021 grape harvest in Earsham near Bungay

Flint Vineyard directors Hannah Witchell, Adrian Hipwell and Ben Witchell have started the 2021 grape harvest in Earsham near Bungay. Photo Credit: Danielle Booden

Winemakers across East Anglia are gathering some impressive grapes after a much-needed burst of autumn sunshine helped save the harvest.

The 2021 wine harvest is under way two or three weeks later than usual, after a cold start to the season which delayed the growth of fruit on the vines.

But a warm September helped accelerate the ripeness of the grapes - bringing back optimism for a good vintage.

This week Flint Vineyard, near the Norfolk-Suffolk border at Earsham, near Bungay, began picking its first Bacchus grapes of the year - one of the main varieties among its 26,000 vines.

Winemaker Ben Witchell, who runs the vineyard with his wife Hannah, said: "The positive message for East Anglia, and Norfolk in particular, is a really dry and warm September has accelerated the ripeness and we are picking some really good grapes.

"We had quite a slow start, with a lot of cold weather and rain at the beginning of the season, but actually the rain was quite good for getting the plants healthy and fertile.

"We are still two or three weeks behind where we would normally be, but we had a really dry and warm September and we are picking some really ripe Bacchus."

The vineyard also grows pinot noir and pinot blanc grapes, and yield predictions carried out by weighing bunches over the last month suggest the firm will produce about 35,000 bottles of wine this year.

When asked if 2021 will be a vintage year, Mr Witchell said: "Who knows? All I know is that we had a very cold start to the season, so on paper it is not a stand-out year.

"But we have fared really well in East Anglia because we are very dry here so we have got some really clean ripe fruit, which looks fantastic. So I think 2021 is going to be a good year."

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