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Time to check-in at Chapel Down – It’s harvest time with Jamie Oliver

It’s great when local businesses have a great story to tell, especially when the business in question ‘manufactures’ fantastic products. Frazer Thompson, Managing Directory of Chapel Down gives us an update on their year, Jamie Oliver and harvests.

Blue skies, gentle breezes, the smell of Ambre Solaire – it must be the middle of summer in the Mediterranean. But it’s Kent in very late September, where Tesco have already put Christmas features up and signs and e-mails everywhere are urging me to book my turkey dinner before its too late…

It always amazes me that 5 days of warm weather merits such media airtime and newsprint. It’s a heatwave (it isn’t), it’s an Indian summer (it isn’t), it’s a sign of Global warming (it isn’t).  But it is undeniably gorgeous when the sun shines in late September – the light is better, there’s dew and mist and the leaves are starting to turn, we get the best sunrises and sunsets….and we get our first people running around vineyards carrying scissors. In spite of the weather, Mums would not be happy.

We started picking on 19th September – 6 days earlier than we have in the past ten years. The fruit is ripening well and sugars are rising and acids starting to fall in the grapes. Timing is crucial. Whilst the quality of this year’s harvest looks to be verging on the spectacular, and we’ve got a great team in the vineyards and a great team at the winery, we’ve only just started picking and much can happen. Despite the weather and the fruit coming to us so far, there is a long way to go. Its this time of year when even the Tigger in me goes all Eeyore. Everything that can be crossed, is crossed…

We welcomed the most enthusiastic, but unproductive pickers we have ever had to the vineyard on Tuesday 27th. Our vine lease holders looked gorgeous, and full of energy as they picked their grapes from 11 am to 1pm. And then they enjoyed a fabulous meal at great prices. No-one did any picking after lunch… I think they had a great time! We sent our pickers in afterwards to “finish off”…

For those of you with an interest in business and finance, you might want to look at our half-year results. Martin Johnson the England coach referred to ‘rugby players drinking beer shock’ after the Mike Tindall incident. This ‘English wine company makes profit shock’ is perhaps one of the great strides forward for the industry - although for you, and others better informed I am sure it will have come as no shock at all. One of the many highlights of our first six months has been the growing relationship we have developed with many of England’s top chefs.

Union Jacks with Jamie Oliver
We were delighted to be able to announce that we are going to be the sole suppliers of wine and supplier of beer to Jamie Oliver’s new restaurant concept, Union Jacks. Jamie came to visit the vineyard and have a look round and taste. He is exactly as you hoped he would be. Charming, enthusiastic, energetic, funny and very very quick and smart. And he has huge hands. He’s a perfect match with our brand and we’re thrilled to be working so closely with him.

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