Nigel's Harvest Blog 2022

1st April 2022

Normally at vintage I’d be lobbing in a daily comment. But this isn’t normal. It’s not normal for a country that has escaped Covid throughout most of its ravages to be suddenly engulfed in it. I’ve lived with it for two years but it’s a novelty here, and a rather unnerving one. Especially when you have a five week slot when vintage happens and your year's work turns into a full cellar or crashes and burns in a microbial disaster. So, each day is an unfolding drama. 

Nicola went down when her son succumbed. No problem, she can manage from home. Blair is completely aware that the whole show hangs on his shoulders. We know he isn’t going to get hospitalised, but a winemaker that loses their sense of smell and taste just as the fermenters are moving into their critical post-ferment stage? I know it’s not what you stay awake sweating about, but, believe me, it is enough to cause a re-arangement of living with family and kids. 
So, that’s where we are. Fruit almost in. The cleanest that we have seen, maybe ever, definitely for a decade. The finest picking weather we can remember, though those labouring in the vines may have hoped for a few more clouds. (kudos to them! Our harvest absolutely depends on a team of enthusiasts, this year augmented with a joyfull gang of professionals from Vanuatu) A full volume, enough to worry the winemaker that just a touch less might be ideal. But, who are we kidding? In this world of climate catastrophe, we are seeing a tiny miracle unfold. 
Right now, I think there is an element of “survivor's guilt’. Who are we to escape the global wrath that has defined this season? Who indeed? 
Well, we did. And, it was good. Fruit is almost all in, and fermenting as designed. Perhaps next year we won’t dodge the bullet. Perhaps next year we won’t be defining things in those sorts of terms. That would indeed be progress. 

22nd March 2022

I’m writing this, sitting in the shade, at our big table, just outside the winery, with the whine of a forklift and the sound of tanks being scrubbed as a backdrop. Day four of picking, but my excitement of the new harvest comes second to that of simply being back at the winery.  Two years of being locked out from my place of work and most of that locked out of the country itself, has been wearing to say the least. But I’m not going to complain. I know how hard it has been for many people; businesses and in some cases lives broken. But I’ve spent the last two years in a place where 164,000 people died of it. Believe me, that is a much worse outcome and the pain of lockout was far less than the consequences of holding it at bay until vaccinations took the real risk away. 
Enough of that. Harvest is coming in, the weather is warm and settled, vines are green and healthy, fruit is abundant and clean. What more could anybody hope for? The season has been warm, but not scary, certainly nothing like the serious heat that has visited European vineyards over the last few years. 
I am fond of telling people that my favourite vintages are the difficult ones: the times when we are measured at our limits. But right now, in a tortured and troubled world, I’ll take an easy one and be very grateful that I don’t have an extra stress to keep me awake. Our Ukrainian distributors send daily updates, which are harrowing (you can follow them on; free to read) especially as they have had their entire warehouse destroyed; so much great wine, from colleagues all over the world, gone up in the blast of missiles. 
Wine is the very antithesis of enmity. It thrives on friendship and has little purpose without it. Drinking wine alone can reduce it to becoming an anaesthetic and a pricy one at that. What can we do in such times as these? See our friends more; make new friends; patch up ones that have been let slip or worse. The pen may be mightier than the sword, but the wineglass deserves a place in the armoury as well.

Nigel and the team at Felton Road