November 2002  

Winery Notes




We have been surprised at how long it has taken to recover from the floodings of October 2000. Having spent 25 months in a caravan whilst the house was being reconstructed, we have finally moved back this November.

Over the last two seasons the vineyard has experienced the highs and lows of growing grapes in the UK. 2001 was a great year, early budburst, a warm dry flowering period in late June with well ripened grapes by the end of October. Not so in 2002. Although budburst was promisingly early, the year seemed to collapse on itself; cold, wet and windy during flowering coupled with an attack by large garden snails feeding on the flowers and shoots. Only a few vines managed to set any fruit, not sufficient to warrant harvesting. I need at least a ton of grapes to operate the press. It seemed strange when I remember sitting outside in late September, still able to feel the warmth of the sun at 4 o'clock in the afternoon. A fine Autumn comes to nought when the grapes fails to set in July.

..... And now to business. I am very pleased with the still wine from last year. The Seyval Blanc is ready for drinking, just six months after going into bottle. I have lightly oaked some of this Seyval, which not only adds a new dimension of flavour from the oak tannin, but also lends a certain 'softness' to the young green wine.

For those who prefer the more mature wines from Breaky Bottom, I have got good amounts of Seyval Blanc from 1996, which is very elegant. In its prime, but continuing to be controversial is the Seyval Blanc 1995. It has a very distinctive taste, a style which prompted Henri Chapon, Chief Sommelier at the Hotel du Vin to describe it as much like a Savennieres, full of character with a real 'gout du terrior'. It is also admired by Rosemary George MW who continues to purchase for her own cellar. Certainly a wine to match full-flavoured foods.

Now the fizz............ I still have small stocks of the delicious 1996 Millennium Cuvée Maman Mercier which I can thoroughly recommend. As Sarah Jane Evans described it in the BBC Good Food magazine of June 2002, when choosing her three top sparkling wines from the UK, "This wine shows the benefit of ageing, giving a wine of some complexity" (Click here to read the article - 78k). In July of this year I made the first release of the 1999 sparkling wine which will be known as 'Cuvée Rémy Alexandre' in memory of my delightful brother. I believe this to be one of the best wines I have made at Breaky Bottom. It has now had over two years on the lees - a full yeasty 'Champagne' nose, a wonderful creamy mousse and the punchy Seyval acidity which makes this variety such a perfect grape to sparkle. I rejoice in the day some 28 years ago when I committed this vineyard to the cultivation of Seyval Blanc.