Harvest time is not just about gathering traditional crops such as fruit, grains and vegetables. In Hampshire it is increasingly about picking grapes for wine production, with many vineyards relying on volunteers to help.
When Hampshire Fare visited Goodworth Clatford Vineyard in the Test Valley in mid-October, they were getting ready for harvest the follow week. This is a boutique vineyard which Cecilia and Mark Haszlakiwicz created from the paddock of their village home as a retirement project. They planted the vines in 2016 (the classic champagne grape varieties: chardonnay, pinot meunier and pinot noir), picked the first harvest in 2018, and produced their first bottles of English sparkling wine in 2021.
They were appreciative of help they received from other Hampshire vineyards, including Raimes Sparkling Wine. Cecilia remembers: “They were so nice to us when we asked stupid questions. Neither of us knew anything about wine, except that we liked to drink! We have learned so much and we learn more every day.”
Harvesting the grapes can be as late as the end of October and they spread harvest time across three days - one day for each grape variety, as they usually ripen at different times. Family, friends and villagers come to help pick the grapes, gathering about 8.15am for tea and coffee, and working all morning, finishing in time for lunch at 1.30pm.
Mark is quality control, going through all the bunches of grapes and discarding any deemed below par, to ensure a small, yet carefully produced selection of quality English Sparking Wines. As Mark explains: “We are not interested in volume; we produce around 2,500 bottles each year.”
After harvesting the grapes go to the winemaker where they are pressed and the different grape varieties stored in separate tanks for the first fermentation. It is not until early spring that Cecilia and Mark return to taste and blend the varieties together.
Cecilia says: “We blend together different percentages to come up with what we like, and hope other people like it, too. It is a fascinating exercise.”
They point out that the vineyard was always intended to be a hobby and not a commercial business, however their wines are picking up accolades and awards. Local stockists include Thyme & Tides in Stockbridge and village stores in Abbots Ann, St Mary Bourne and, of course, their own village, Goodworth Clatford. Cecilia and Mark comment “The village has taken the vineyard on board; they are engaged with it – and we solve their Chrismas present problems!”