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£10m down the drain as Nyetimber wine crop scrapped
Sussex's award-winning vineyards have been devastated by this year’s freak weather.
Nyetimber Vineyard in West Chiltington has scrapped its 2012 vintage of around 400,000 bottles because of the poor quality of the grapes.
The sparkling wine, selected by the Queen for her Golden Jubilee, fetches in excess of £25 per bottle, meaning the loss of £10m of sparking wine.
And producers from Ridgeview, Ditchling, told The Argus that their autumn harvest was down 50% on previous years.
Nyetimber, near Pulborough, has blamed “unusually poor” weather conditions for the decision – the first of its kind in its 24- year history.
The 430-acre site is England’s biggest wine estate and boasts stock in prestigious outlets such as Harvey Nichols, Gordon Ramsay’s restaurant Maze and Jamie Oliver’s restaurant Fifteen.
Britain’s worst drought in more than 30 years, followed by the wettest June since records began, meant grape quality at Nyetimber was severely reduced.
Sixty full-time staff were told on Tuesday that the 2012 harvest did not meet the required standard.
Cherie Spriggs, Nyetimber winemaker, said maintaining quality was paramount and the decision to cancel the crop had been a difficult one.
She added: “My first obligation as the winemaker is to ensure the quality of Nyetimber’s wines, and we have collectively come to the decision that the grapes from 2012 cannot deliver the standards we have achieved in the past and will again in the future.”
Chris Foss, chairman of the South East Vineyards Association and head of the wine department at Plumpton College, said: “Nyetimber are trying to produce a premium product with a great reputation.
“In order to do that you mustn’t cut any corners. That’s their policy. If you’re trying to produce wine that sells for anything up to £50 a bottle, then it has to be up to scratch.
“Generally speaking it’s been a tough year for the Sparkling producers.
“Also bear in mind that the area which they’re operating in is a particularly weather-affected area.
“We bought grapes from Essex where it’s been relatively OK. Kent has been not too bad and has had some decent crops. The further west you go the more troublesome it becomes.”
Mike Roberts, of Ridgeview Estate Winery in Ditchling, confirmed it is forecasting a harvest which could be just under 50% of its three-year average, which based on its bottling figures from 2010 would mean 125,000 fewer units.
He said: “We at Ridgeview and our dedicated partner growers really do grow hand-crafted grapes, looking after our vines with great care and attention.
“The result is, even in a poor growing season, that very good grapes can be carefully picked.”
A spokesperson for Nyetimber said this year’s weather conditions were unprecedented and there was nothing they could do to try to prevent the same scenario next year.
They added: “It’s been a difficult few months for the staff and we are feeling quite sad, but generally this year has been a fantastic year for us.
“Sales are good and the Queen even had our wine on her barge going up the Thames. Despite the difficult decision, we are feeling optimistic for next year and are really excited about carrying on.”