A vintage that ended on December 30… welcome to winemaking in England and one of the most challenging vintages in history. For Chris Wilson, wine scribe turned winemaker and owner of Cambridge’s first urban winery Gutter&Stars, 2021 was a vintage which threw everything possible at winemakers; he did, however, get some decent juice out of the year along with plaudits for his inaugural wines, including from Roger Jones who made Gutter&Stars’ first Chardonnay his Christmas pour.
“I’ve been blown away by some of the feedback for Daylight Upon Magic by customers and critics alike… and it’s recently been listed by top restaurants La Trompette and Restaurant 22,” writes Wilson.
Happy New Year. When my last update was posted in October we were in the middle of the 2021 vintage; the Bacchus and Ortega were fermenting away and the Pinot Noir and Chardonnay were still on the vine. Only very recently – 30th December to be precise – did the vintage finally finish for me.
The post-MLF racking of the Pinot Noir from its fermentation lees signaled the end of the initial work on the 2021 vintage and the start of a relatively quiet few months in the winery where the wines settle down, grow into themselves and get to grips with the various vessels they are maturing in.
2021 was a challenging year to make wine in the UK and following a tasting of all the Gutter & Stars 2021 wines this week I’m relieved that I’ve got some decent-looking wines taking shape in barrel and tank. Many growers and winemakers will be happy to see the end of 2021 and hope that a run of better vintages are around the corner, where the blights of frost, miserable weather, high disease pressure and a distinct lack of growing degree days are felt less severely.
Putting the final wines to bed for the winter means I can shift focus to other areas of the business and make some visits to Essex and beyond to meet growers and talk about fruit and plans for future vintages.
A key focus over the next few months is coming up with labels and names for the new set of wines alongside designer Ed Wright. We had a pre-Christmas catch-up and over pizza and beers formulated a broad plan for the five new wines, now we need to refine these and get the artwork in shape.
Coming from an art school background I love creative work like this, and we can’t wait to share our ideas when the wines are released later this year. Suffice to say most – if not all – of the wines will continue the theme of having a musical reference in the title and/or artwork, and following nods to The Stone Roses, James and Leonard Cohen with the 2020 releases you can expect Bob Dylan, Edwyn Collins and Joy Division this time around.
I hope to get a series of wine tastings off the ground this winter/spring too, which will be a great opportunity to show off the now-completed Chesterton Mill site and the windmill winery itself. With only one wine from the 2020 vintage left in stock – the Daylight Upon Magic Chardonnay – one plan is to host a ‘Chardonnay love-in’ event where we taste half a dozen Chardonnays from around the world, showcasing this grape’s myriad styles and guises. Keep an eye on the website and social media for details of this and other tastings.
Looking ahead to the next Gutter & Stars releases, the ‘first two cabs off the rank’ will be the 2021 Bacchus and a white field blend of Oxfordshire-grown Ortega and Bacchus. These will be released in May/June, with a skin-contact Bacchus following later in the summer and a Pinot Noir in the autumn. I’m thrilled that I have managed to produce a still Pinot Noir in a year when many Pinot grapes destined for red wines ended up as rosés or sparkling base wines.
I also have a barrel of the 2020 Chardonnay held back for a reserve – or ‘long-player’ – wine which will see the light of day sometime this year too. I tasted it last week and I’m very excited about how it’s developing and believe it will only get better and more complex with another six months or so in barrel. As ever, patience is the watchword here.
I hope it goes down as well as it did on initial release. I’ve been blown away by some of the feedback for Daylight Upon Magic by customers and critics alike; Roger Jones named it in his wines of 2021 round-up for The Buyer and told Club Oenologique that is was his Christmas Day pour, and it’s recently been listed by top restaurants La Trompette and Restaurant 22.
You are only as good as your last wine though, so it’s important to stay focussed and the attention is now on the future releases rather than what’s already in bottle. Onwards we go!