As the frenetic harvest period comes to an end, and Christmas approaches, we take a step back to admire the quiet beauty of winter on the Hambledon estate. When one thinks about a vineyard- the picture conjured is often one of a verdant summer, vines laden with grapes and drinks on a sunny patio. However, winter can be just as beautiful- with the leaves dropping from the vines, frost settling on the ground and the chalk roads glistening with ice.
In the vineyard, January lauds the beginning of pruning- an essential process through which we aim to obtain the maximum possible yield of high-quality grapes for the viticultural year- without pruning, there would be an excessive number of grape clusters, which would result in grapes being unable to ripen, and inadequate growth of vegetation (i.e., stems and leaves). As with many other sparkling wine producers, Hambledon Vineyard follow the Guyot training system, which selects one or two canes per plant to be responsible for the following season’s growth. This maximises fruit quality, while being a practical method for cool-climate grape growing, providing natural frost protection for the vine. Like everything here at Hambledon Vineyard, this process is truly a labour of love, with all 300,000 of our vines being hand pruned by a dedicated team, over a period of three to four weeks, in all conditions from frost, to sunshine, and to rain.
In the winery, we enter a relaxed period, when the primary alcoholic fermentation has ended, and malolactic fermentation begins. This is an essential process with which we build the unique character of our wines, and like any good thing, takes time, patience, and care. Our winemakers watch over the tanks and barrels as the character of the 2023 vintage begins to reveal itself, regularly tasting and performing bâtonnage on barrels to ensure homogenous lees contact- essential to build flavour and aroma in the wine, but also adding a controlled amount of oxygen to the product, to help it resist oxidation.
However, despite the tranquillity in the production side of the business, hospitality becomes busier than ever during the festive season. With a wealth of winter workshops, intended to teach new skills, from wreath making to flower arranging, while enjoying a glass of our award-winning sparkling wine and getting into the festive spirit. Or, beyond the Christmas period, our tours and tastings operate year-round, allowing you to enjoy the vineyard in its most serene season: tour our historic vineyards, visit our state-of-the-art gravity-fed winery.
In the surrounding area, the trees lose their amber leaves and glisten with frost, Christmas trees are brought to surrounding cities, towns and villages and the lights ceremoniously switched on. People flock to shops to buy gifts for loved ones and enjoy convivial moments in local restaurants over a well-deserved glass of wine. Everything slows down, just a little bit, and people take a moment to appreciate the small things in life.
We’ll be ringing in the season with a glass of our Première Cuvée, by the fire, with a special somebody.