Our main focus at Martin’s Lane nowadays is to produce fruit of the highest possible quality and ripeness for the finest in still wines and with this year’s harvest now complete there is time to reflect on what has been a most challenging year in seeking once more to deliver upon that objective.
In August, after such a lean and disappointing summer, you would not have contemplated putting even an each-way bet on grapes reaching close to 90 Oechsele (a potential alcohol of around 12.5%), indeed the expectation of getting a reasonable crop at all was already proving elusive for so many.
But what then followed demonstrated once again to those of us involved in growing grapes in this country how the elements can make fools of us all!
A long cold spell throughout April and into early May had delayed bud-burst, but fortunately the damaging effects of unrelenting frosts in many parts of the country (and abroad) were again avoided in this confined corner of Essex where undoubtedly we owed relief once more to the protection afforded us by the big up-river tides of the Crouch Valley.
Nonetheless the growing season started nearly three weeks later than would normally be expected, but we then saw some recovery with warmer weather arriving in May, though still right up to flowering at the end of June temperatures had been unremarkable and around that time spells of wet weather further threatened to upset the prospect of successful pollination.
We were pleasantly surprised however in the weeks following flowering to observe that we had after all enjoyed a substantial ‘fruit-set’ with generous bunch prospects visible throughout the vineyard.
All we needed now was the great English summer weather to ripen the fruit and with mounting optimism we settled back for the show. At first we saw a week or so in mid-July of probably the warmest spell of the year so far, but this was short lived as we lapsed into August which more resembled a ‘nuclear winter’ than the customary warmth we expect and the much forecast high temperatures extending from the continent just never arrived.
Added to this, wet and humid conditions were bringing risks of Downy Mildew with serious outbreaks being reported in vineyards both at home and abroad. The prospect was fortunately recognised very early by our site team and preventative sprays were applied to allay its ever making an appearance, so another major obstacle avoided.But still the aim of reaching a reasonable ripeness in our fruit seemed a distant dream after such a poor season and the decision was taken to dig in for the long wait and to hang the fruit as long as conditions would permit, so the ‘white knuckle’ ride began. September was fortunately its warm reliable self and October continued the trend with generally more settled and drier conditions than we have become used to in recent years.
By mid-October, some weeks later than usual, we began picking the ‘earlies’ with Bacchus a few ripeness points below last year, but beautifully flavoured fruit and cropping at more than 5t/acre. But with weather conditions holding and the remaining fruit still showing no signs of deterioration we continued to wait for the ‘late ripening’ varieties, eventually making the decision to begin picking as we entered November, much later than ever previously.
We were positively taken aback to see, first of all, the Pinot Gris coming in at 92Oe, followed by the first of the Pinot Noir clones (our ‘general purpose’ clones) also reaching 92Oe and then amongst other Pinot Noir ‘star performers’ 95Oe and finally 98Oe (more than 13.5% ABV). A superb quality and ultra clean crop of Chardonnay (around 3t/acre) concluded events on 7 November and came in consistently across all clones at just beneath 90Oe.
Many of these results were close or up to the results we saw here in 2020 prompting the question, what do any of us know about predicting the fortunes of grape harvest based upon the experience of an English Summer!
Since Martin’s Lane wines were first released to the trade at the beginning of 2016 the partners have been overwhelmed at the response received. Subsequently, demand has been increasing and we are delighted to have been chosen to supply our wines to many premium restaurants and other outlets in Essex, East Anglia, Cambridge and London.
We are proud to announce that our wines are now available in the following establishments:
Fortnum & Mason
First founded in London’s Piccadilly in 1707, Fortnum & Mason have remained an essential destination for anyone in search of extraordinary food, exceptional service and joy-giving things ever since. Everyone remembers their first encounter with Fortnum & Mason, and no wonder – over centuries of history, they have been committed to delivering a sense of pleasure to anyone who walks through their doors.
Like all great exercises in creation, Fortnum & Mason began with light. The insistence of Queen Anne's household on fresh candles every night spelled a legitimate perk for an enterprising footman: spare palace wax to sell on. By 1707, William Fortnum's enlightened "side line" had melted down into enough to leave royal service and start a business with his landlord Hugh Mason. The rest, as they say, is grocery.
Martin’s Lane are delighted to be supplying this prestigious organisation with wines for both in-store and on-line customers. https://www.fortnumandmason.com/
The Great House, Lavenham, Suffolk
Set in the mediaeval splendour of the magnificent Market Place, this award winning 3 AA Rosette boutique French cuisine restaurant is regarded as one of the finest provincial dining locations in East Anglia. http://www.greathouse.co.uk/
Le Talbooth, Dedham
Nestling alongside Constable’s River Stour, Le Talbooth’s stunning and highly prestigious riverside restaurant provides an unrivalled dining experience with award winning cuisine in an idyllic rural setting with fine views across the countryside of the Essex/Suffolk border. https://www.milsomhotels.com/le-talbooth/
The Prince of Wales, Stow Maries
On the doorstep of Martin’s Lane Vineyard this 17th-century weatherboarded pub has three cosy drinking and dining areas with an extensive garden to the rear. ‘The Prince’ is a much favoured watering hole for locals and the many walkers in the area and is renowned for its home cooked foods and legendary range of beers from home and abroad.
Rob Walster is celebrating his 30th year running the establishment and he and his wife Lynn organise many special events through the year the best known being the spectacular firework display on the last Saturday in October. There is a separate family and function room along with high standard accommodation available. https://www.prince-stowmaries.net/
The Ferry Boat Inn, North Fambridge
Fast forward to the present and you’ll discover a modern inn that preserves the 16th century charm of the original, combined with the comfort and luxury you would expect in the 21st century. The inn uses as much local produce as possible, and we are thrilled that they have chosen to feature three of our wines in their wine selection. https://www.ferryboatinnessex.com
The Cock Tavern, Ongar
They are passionate about using locally-sourced ingredients that have travelled only a few miles. These include locally reared, rare breed, pork & chicken, cheeses, honey, wine & vegetables. https://www.thecockongar.co.uk/
Nestled in Ramsden Heath in Essex, this pub/restaurant was a finalist in the Essex Life Food & Drink Awards 2018 in the Best Essex Pub category. With their menu of quality dishes sourced from local suppliers, local beers and large marquee for public and private events, this is a fine country pub that's going places!
The owners, Mark & Sarah Hood spent a day at the vineyard and were so impressed with what they saw and tasted that they are now stocking Martin’s Lane 2014 Sparkling Chardonnay and our still 2016 Chardonnay, Pinot Gris and Pinot Noir Precoce. They intend adding more of our range as they continue to grow. https://foxandhoundsramsden.co.uk/
A lovingly restored former public house situated in this historic Essex countryside clearing, Alec’s has become one of most sought-after restaurants in this area of the county excelling in fish and seafood specialities within its extensive and impressive menu. http://alecsrestaurant.co.uk/
Situated on the edge of the historic and beautiful Epping Forest, Haywards has employed innovative and modern European culinary techniques using seasonal and local produce at its very best to create an unforgettable and unique dining experience in the most friendly and stylish environment. http://haywardsrestaurant.co.uk/
Vita Bella, East Hanningfield
Situated on the Tye in the picturesque village of East Hanningfield, this beautifully restored former public house is nowadays home to the highly acclaimed Vita Bella restaurant, an oasis of fine dining excelling in classic Italian cuisine combining local produce and supported by unrivalled service from its highly knowledgeable staff. http://vita-bella.co.uk/
Corky Winers, Tolleshunt D'Arcy
Set up in 2020 by Sam and Amy, Corky Winers is a small, local business with a passion for wine and beer. Their mission is to introduce their customers to artisan French wines that you would struggle to find elsewhere in the UK, together with the finest wines from rural Essex.
We are delighted that Corky Winers have chosen to include a range of our wines within their portfolio. http://corkywiners.co.uk
The Essex Produce Company, Kelvedon
Essex has some of the finest food & drink producers in the UK. Through the village shop in Kelvedon, Fraser Ward brings you an exclusive array of the best produce the county has to offer, including fine wines, beers, spirits, preserves, juices, shakes, cheese plus more pantry staples.
The shop officially opened at the end of June 2021 and stocks Martin’s Lane Pinot Gris, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir Blanc de Noirs. https://essexproduceco.co.uk/
The Farm Shop at Marsh Farm, South Woodham Ferrers
Just a couple of miles from Martin’s Lane you’ll find Marsh Farm Country Park, with it’s large farm shop specialising in produce local to the area. We are delighted to have four of our wines featured in their extensive range of drinks – the Pinot Noir Blanc de Noirs, Pinot Gris, Pinot Grigio and Chardonnay. https://marshfarmshop.co.uk/
Grape Britannia, Cambridge
Established in 2018 by Matt Hodgson and his wife, this Cambridge based shop and wine bar specialises in only quality English and Welsh wines, meads and spirits. Their ethos is to reduce the impact on the environment by sourcing wines from only domestic producers. Grape Britannia was winner of the 2020 Decanter Retail Award, and we are delighted that our relationship with them has developed over the last two years, with us supplying them with a large selection of our wines. https://www.grapebritannia.co.uk
WINE SALES TO THE PUBLIC
We have continued to receive enquiries about visits to Martin’s Lane vineyard, many from wine clubs and societies.
We do not have a programme of visiting times, but for those interested in visiting the vineyard please contact us as we are happy to organise something tailor-made for individual groups (normally 8 to 10 persons minimum). Click here to contact us by email or alternatively telephone us to discuss your specific requirements and we would be pleased to provide an estimate of cost.