Jamie Goode corking every bottle of the orange Bacchus; why bottling a wine favours the boutique winery; an Open Day with customers bringing picnics; the state of the 2022 English harvest; what to do with 100s of kilos of Ortega; a special reserve version of his much-lauded Chardonnay – all this and more has been happening since Chris Wilson last brought us up to speed with what’s been happening at his boutique winery, Gutter & Stars which is Cambridge’s first urban winery… and housed in the bottom of a windmill.
It’s been four months since my last update from the windmill winery and a lot has happened in that time: I’ve bottled three more wines, released one, firmed up plans for the 2022 harvest and held the first Gutter & Stars Open Day.
The beauty of running such a small operation and doing all the bottling in-house by hand is that I can bottle each and every wine when it’s absolutely ready to go into glass. Many wineries, particularly ones which rely on a mobile bottling line, will bottle once or twice a year for practical and logistical reasons, and not necessarily when everything is at its peak.
I have a small four-head gravity filler and can get set up for bottling a particular wine – or even one barrel of specific wine – within a day or two. This means that ‘bottling days’ are frequent in the winery this time of year when I’m getting the wines from the previous vintage into bottle and ready for release.
Since my last update I’ve bottled three more wines from the 2021 vintage – a barrel-fermented Bacchus, a skin-contact Bacchus and a Pinot Noir. On each occasion I’ve had help on the day – an extra pair of hands to assist largely with the corking side of the operation, but also to add moral support. Thanks to local legends Steve Hovington and William Wray and fellow wine writer Jamie Goode for their help.
Jamie corked each and every bottle of the orange Bacchus, and also turned his hand to wax sealing too, doing a top job. It was good to taste through all the new wines with him and get some feedback on the 2021s and the winery set-up on the whole. I think he was impressed. You can read what he thought here.
There’s one more wine to go into bottle this side of the 2022 harvest, a ‘reserve’ Chardonnay from the 2020 vintage which I’ve kept back in barrel for an extra year. This further time in French oak has really rounded off all the lovely tropical fruit and added a creamy, pastry note. It’ll be released in November, just in time for Christmas.
A quick note on all the new and upcoming G&S wines:
‘Strange News From Another Star’ Bacchus 2021 – 800 bottles, out now
Made from Bacchus grapes grown at Missing Gate Vineyard in Essex’s Crouch Valley this aromatic and textured wine is shot through with bite and style. Notes of fleshy grapefruit and gooseberry are joined by racy green apple acidity to create an edgy, bright wine that trembles on an acid/fruit tightrope. Named after an album track on Blur’s 1997 LP ‘Blur’.
‘Rip It Up’ Orange Bacchus 2021 – 150 bottles, released September 2022
Using the same Essex-grown grapes as the Bacchus, this skin-contact wine is a first for Gutter & Stars. 200 kg of Crouch Valley grapes were slowly fermented on skins for 30 days in a plastic egg, before ageing for six months in stainless steel. The result is a clean and sappy wine with grilled nectarine and mineral characters. Just 150 bottles made. Named after the 1983 hit single by Scottish indie band Orange Juice.
‘Shadowplay’ Pinot Noir 2021 – 250 bottles, released October 2022
Again, Crouch Valley fruit from Missing Gate. Picked late in the first week of November, destemmed at the winery and fermented in large open-topped bins before maturation in old American oak. Lean and structured it brims with cherry and pomegranate fruit, grippy acidity and just a hint of spice. It’s delicate and perfumed and will benefit from 10 minutes in the fridge before enjoying. Named after Joy Division’s seminal 1979 track which featured on their debut album ‘Unknown Pleasures’.
‘Daylight Upon Magic’ Longplayer Chardonnay 2020 – 250 bottles, released November 2022
I held back a barrel of the super-ripe 2020 Chardonnay for this reserve – or Longplayer – wine. When bottled in September it will have had an extra year in French oak, in the exact same barrel the wine was fermented in. It’s lush and rich with spice, tropical peach and lemon tart notes.
All releases are – or will be when ready – available via the Gutter & Stars website.
As the summer days breeze past it’s time to start looking ahead to this year’s harvest, and my plan this year is simple… work with the same varieties and the same growers, and introduce a few extra parcels of fruit from new growers in Kent and Essex.
I plan to increase production this year – particularly with Chardonnay and Pinot Noir – and work again with Bacchus and Ortega, perhaps trying something new with a few hundred KGs of the Ortega… watch this space. A number of extra oak barrels have arrived from Burgundy and I can’t wait to fill them up and start the whole merry-go-round again.
The growing season so far has been superb and long may it continue into August, September and beyond (with a little bit of rain here and there). Roll on the 2022 harvest.
Finally, it was a great pleasure to throw open the doors of the winery a few weeks back for the first G&S Open Day. It was a wonderfully sunny day and customers made the most of the space inside the winery and outside in view of the windmill to enjoy the 2021 wines by the glass and buy a few bottles to take home. Some even brought a picnic.
The plan is to host these open door events regularly as it’s a great way to meet customers face-to-face and show people around the space.
You can catch up on Chris Wilson’s other articles detailing the latest adventures and steps taken at Gutter & Stars by clicking here.