As the crisp Autumn days go by and we find ourselves rooted in this year's harvest season, we can’t help but feel a wave of excitement for what’s to come. Months of meticulous preparation, from pruning to organic care, culminate in the celebration of the Viking Irish Drinks Harvest 2023. This year we’ve been blessed with some bountiful fruits who are now ready to be picked, pruned, and harvested. Harvest season is always a momentous occasion and we can’t wait to share our journey with you.
Harvest Blush Role Call – 2024 Batch Preparation
It goes without saying that our Harvest Blush is first on our list for this year’s picking. In late August, we kick-started the harvest with a blend of early apples, including Katy (Katja), Vicky, early Bittersweet, Greensleeves, and early Bramley. For that ‘blush’ twist, we fermented the blend of apples with a selection of Blackcurrants, Tayberries, and Loch Ness Blackberries. With the harvest over, we have a very small batch (around 2,000 bottles) of Harvest Blush now bottle conditioning, to be released for St. Patrick’s Weekend 2024.
Mid-Season Varieties - A Natural Fermentation
The mid-season cider harvest brought us Kingston Black, Jersey Foxwhelp, late Vicky, Green Boskoop, and Brandey apples. What followed was a remarkable natural fermentation that will be set aside for Orchard Gold (Dry). This cider is a blend of the previous year’s dry ciders with the current vintage, promising a rounded flavour and absolute dryness. Once bottle conditioned, our Orchard Gold bottling will commence in February 2024 with a release date of May – June 2024. To retain a touch of sediment and add character to each bottle, the bottle conditioning process is of upmost importance here.
The Grape Harvest 2023 - Solaris Escapes May's Frost
In the first week of September, we embarked on the grape harvest, known as Vendange with Solaris and Seyval Blanc white grapes. The Viking Irish Drinks Harvest 2023 was nothing short of remarkable, especially for Solaris, a grape variety prone to May frosts. Thankfully, we managed to escape significant damage to flowering buds. Our approach is as natural as it gets – the grapes are crushed with stems attached and fermented with natural recurring yeasts, this year we pressed with very little skin contact. The majority will be used to make still wine for release in late 2024, while a small batch has been champagne bottled for a traditional method sparkling wine to be unveiled in 2025.
The Grape Harvest 2023 - Rondo Vendange
Mid-October marked the beginning of the Rondo Vendange, featuring a late red Piwi variety perfectly suited to our maritime climate. With ripening of the Rondo beginning in September, the grape takes a further 3-4 weeks to accrue the required sugar content. The harvest, which extended into late October due to inclement weather, resulted in three distinctive styles; a full bodied-red, a medium red, and a delightful super rose (crafted from free-run juices). This year, we’ve used 100% Rondo grapes, as our late white grape ‘Orion’ ripened earlier than expected and was fermented separately for topping up various wines after racking up. The fermentation process for Rondo wines varies, and we’ll be monitoring them closely as they mature. Early next year, once initial fermentation is complete, we’ll transfer these wines to oak barrels for 6-8 months, with the hope of bottling in 2025 (except for the Rose, which may be bottled late in 2024.
Late Cider Apple Harvest - A Grand Finale
Our grand finale for Viking Irish Drinks Harvest 2023 will be the late cider apple harvest, commencing today, November 1st. We’ll be using a diverse range of apple varieties, including Dabinett, Yarlington Mill, Browns, Sweet Alfred, Tremblett’s Bitter, Harry Masters, Camelot, Bramley, and crabs for that essential acidity. This year’s batch is substantial, and we aim to craft a bottle-fermented keeve cider, Vradjeford, and Orchard Cuvee, both of which will undergo bottle conditioning for that distinctive character.
Viking Irish Drinks Harvest 2023 Processes Explained
Bottle Conditioned – matured in bottles to create a light sparkle and a naturally carbonated drink.
Racking – separating the brew from the yeast before bottling to remove any heavy dead yeast.
Keeve – a French style of cider, bottled to create a natural sweetness and colour.
Vendange – translating from French, Vendange represents the grape harvest or vintage.
Natural Fermentation – allowing natural yeast presented on apples and grapes to multiply and start a fermentation.
Skin Contact – when grape juice stays in contact with grape skins (macerate) to create an orange tinge.