Country mouse applauds English wine

Grape expectations.

If you take the road from Midhurst to Pulborough and look to your left, the southfacing slopes are beginning to give the impression that you’re threading your way through the vineyard- clad hills of Champagne in France. Like a marching army, the orderly rows of vines have been increasing year on year, but, like a retreating rabble, the yields have been inconsistent and 2012 was so bad that the harvest had to be abandoned altogether.

Being fairly new to the business, our friends Martin and Olivia Hunt of Coldharbour required a degree of sang-froid—they had to believe that things could only get better. Allelujah 2014! Some 30–40 pickers are furiously gathering in the grapes this week and it looks as if it’s going to be a record harvest, almost twice as much as last year. We drank their South Downs Rosé 2011 last week, but there are fewer than 4,000 bottles left. With the 45,000 bottles that this harvest promises after our glorious summer, you should be penciling in 2017, which will be the first time we’ll be able to sample the quality as well as the quantity. And, as it won’t solely be available through local farm shops, it means that, at last, the French will have a chance to stock up on what has hitherto been elusive: English fizz fit for a royal banquet.

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