A WINTER LANDSCAPE
We have had the pleasure of our friend Axel Hesslenberg photographing at Breaky Bottom, monitoring life in the vineyard over the year, his lens focusing on particular images he is drawn to - from fine traditional landscapes to the most delicate study of the tendrils of a vine.
THE WINES, WAITROSE AND 2010 AWARDS
The past twelve months have seen a considerable increase in wine sales. Waitrose branches in Lewes, Brighton, Eastbourne, Burgess Hill, Horsham, Worthing, Tonbridge and Paddock Wood all stock Breaky Bottom and Harvey & Son of Lewes, famed for the excellence of their beer, continue to sell as much Breaky Bottom as ever. This year Waitrose encouraged me to enter the Sparkling 2006 into competition and the wine did exceptionally well, gaining a Silver Medal in the Decanter World Wine Awards and a Silver Medal and Best-in-Class in the International Wine & Spirit Competition. This wine and the 2005, which won a Gold Medal in the UK competition, are both available for Christmas orders, along with the ever-popular Kir Royal.
Over 30 years ago I planted a trial plot of all the vines grown along the length of the Loire, including the renowned Champagne varieties. None ripened sufficiently to be considered for serious winemaking. More recently-established vineyards have profited by plant-breeders selecting from early ripening clones of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier. I am not able to judge whether it is this cloning or the (apparently) warmer summers of the last few years which have allowed the young Chardonnay and Pinots at Breaky Bottom to ripen to such perfection. But they do, and the 2007 will be released next summer, the first of the classic Champagne varieties. I have blended these with the Seyval Blanc, as I had originally planned. They seem to support the elegant sweet-natured Seyval by adding extra weight and authority to the wine. In Champagne the assemblage (blending) of the various cuvée is the principal skill which the assembleur brings with him to a great Champagne house – at the peak of his profession.
It was our pleasure last week to welcome to Breaky Bottom Jean-Manuel Jacquinot, a much respected man of Champagne. He was full of enthusiasm for our 2007, including in his tasting notes "…good mousse, nose clean and delicate, citrus as in fresh lime, a wine with good balance which will age well."
JAPANESE WINE MAG
Earlier in the year we were visited by a wine writer from Japan. In our busy lives we forget about such things, a few hours spent with an amiable reporter and photographer, so it was a pleasant surprise, sometime later, to be sent a wine magazine from Japan, Winart, and find Breaky Bottom with beautiful photos on the title page and the article itself with more pictures of the vineyard and the wines. As I have no Japanese I know not what the writer said, or how she regarded the wines (!), but I recall she seemed pleased enough at the time. On the strength of this article I have had several Japanese visitors to the vineyard, including another wine-writer from Tokyo which may well lead to some future sales in Japan.
BREAKY BOTTOM OWLS
Sometime ago my son Toby (master-craftsman) built a fabulous nesting box for a pair of Barn Owls, a gift for my birthday. I spoke of this in my December 2008 Winery Notes. This year the box was occupied for the first time and a family of Barn Owls was reared successfully. Forty years ago Barn Owls used to nest here at the top of the straw-filled Dutch barn but that time has passed and so had the owls. I am delighted with the return of their great-great-great grand children and I hope to ensure that they remain. I heard on Radio 4 a few days ago that the British Trust for Ornithology reckon that 75% of Barn Owls in the UK now nest in nest boxes because their traditional nesting sites have disappeared. I will try and encourage Toby to make more boxes because I have learnt that Barn Owls, although unquestionably 'in love' when they get together to raise a family, nevertheless often choose to sleep in separate quarters – they need a bachelor pad. Little Owls have lived at Breaky Bottom as long as I can remember and they nest in the eaves of the buildings. They are not as strictly nocturnal as other owls and can often be seen dancing on the roof of the flint barn. They have a wonderful piercing call.
The last of the owl news is perhaps the most exciting for me. I have never seen or heard a Tawny Owl at Breaky Bottom. I have always regarded the Downs as open country and not wooded enough for them. But this autumn Christina and I took a walk in the vineyard one night and to our delight we heard the unmistakable call of a Tawny Owl – and we have heard it plenty since, so more nest box building is required – I will have to think of someone to approach... All owl calls can be heard if you Google 'Barn Owl Call' or visit The Barn Owl Centre of Gloucestershire website.
We picked in fine weather during October with more volunteers than ever. A deep frost around 21st resulted in all the leaves falling away to expose the ripe grapes, making it easier for the pickers. The fruit was in tip-top condition, clean grapes which have made a fine base wine that will be bottled in the summer of 2011. Our thanks to all who helped with the harvest - it is always fun, but also hard work and their good company is very much part of the social life at Breaky Bottom and something we look forward to.
Peter Hall - December 2010