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An update from our vines

Last autumn, our teams took to our vines at THE PIG-in the South Downs for the very first time, marking the exciting start of our PIG winemaking journey. Here’s how our homegrown grapes are getting on, seven months later…

The vineyard 

Our vineyard at THE PIG-in the South Downs (the very first PIG vineyard), has grown from strength to strength since its incarnation in the spring of 2020.

Perched upon a mix of chalk and flint – the same terroir* that runs through Champagne, 230 miles to the South East – our vineyard is perfectly suited to create sparkling wines from the traditional grape trio of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Meunier. We’ve even got an experimental 4 rows of Gamay grapes, too!

Directly south facing, our 0.83 hectare, old alpaca patch (how the vineyard got its name!) receives maximum sunlight exposure, helping make sure we can grow and procure the ripest possible fruit.

*the complete natural environment, from soil to climate, that helps to create a particular wine.

The vintage (and very challenging weather!) 
2023 saw a wide variety of factors influence our vineyard which made for a challenging, albeit successful, vintage. We were blessed with a long period of warm sunshine in the 2 months after budburst in the spring, resulting in a highly successful flowering and fruit set.

As we entered July, the weather took a change for the worst, with rain bucketing down through to August – this is a crucial time when the fruit goes through veraison (the change of colour in the grape skin). Because of this, the grape ripening was slightly behind schedule, with a dry, warm Indian summer being prayed for by all of us!

Fortunately, the clouds cleared, and the sun shone throughout September and October, setting us up for a promising first harvest…

The harvest
A large team, fuelled on tea and coffee, began picking early on a golden November morning to guarantee the highest natural acidity possible. We started with the black grapes and finished with the Chardonnay white grapes a few days later.

The exceptional growing conditions throughout October allowed for a little extra hang time for the grapes, which helped ensure adequately ripe fruit was coming off the vines. And, thankfully, the prime conditions we saw during the flowering and fruit set in the spring really paid off, as a whopping 107 crates of Chardonnay alone made its way to the winery (1.6 tonnes of grapes!)

Since then…
Following our first harvest, our very first homegrown grapes were left in the capable hands of Dermot and Ana Sugrue from Sugrue South Downs. Dermot has long been a figurehead of England’s booming sparkling wine industry, starting at Nyetimber in 2002 before joining Wiston Estate as winemaker in 2006, amongst making wine for many of the south of England’s most exciting producers.

Most recently, Dermot and Ana have put their efforts into Sugrue South Downs, and have built their new Bee Tree Winery in Wivelsfield Green, East Sussex. Here, our grapes have been fermenting and spending time in both barrel and tank, ahead of our first PIG wine’s eagerly anticipated release, coming very soon!

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