With a staggering 122g of residual sugar, Biddenden Vineyards has really sweetened the deal with its genuinely ground-breaking release, Biddenden Ortega Late Harvest 2018
Once again, it’s Biddenden Vineyards that has challenged preconceptions.
England is usually regarded as a cool climate winemaking region, but in 2018 there was an exceptionally long, hot summer, with the highest temperatures registered in Kent. The harvest was vast, and pundits were describing it as an extraordinary vintage even during harvest. Biddenden Vineyards Owner, Julian Barnes, saw an opportunity to create a truly innovative wine. The result being the UK’s highest sugar content sweet wine: Biddenden Ortega Late Harvest 2018.
Kent’s pioneering vineyard, Biddenden, has been driven by the passion and knowledge of the Barnes family, now in its third generation. From grandparents Richard and Joyce Barnes, who in 1969 were first to have the vision to cultivate vineyards in Kent: to Julian and sons Tom and Will who run it today and can be seen going about the delicate daily business of viti and viniculture.
“I’ve grown up here, surrounded by vineyards and winemaking but it was about 11 years ago that I started to develop a real passion and focus on sweet wines. We have such a great team here, my brother Will is our vineyard manager – he’s absolutely meticulous – add that to Dad’s incredible 46 years of winemaking experience, we knew we had to give this wine a try,” explained Tom Barnes, General Manager and third Generation of Biddenden Vineyards.
“We have been creating sweet wines at Biddenden for some time now, our Schönburger was very well received and has won a number of wine awards. We’ve been developing sweet winemaking techniques and have put all of this knowledge and experience into creating the Biddenden Ortega Late Harvest 2018.
“We kept a select parcel of Ortega grapes on the vine until late October, picking it with a tight knit group of our core team members. And right from the start, it felt like it was going to be something special. When Dad gave us the nod, we harvested the Ortega at the perfect moment, but the raisined grapes were much harder than we were used to, and we knew immediately that it wasn’t going to go through our delicate grape press. So, in the interest of authenticity and keeping everything on site, we put these special late harvest grapes through one of our belt presses. With the process from picking to pressing all taking place on the estate, we were able to quickly begin fermentation, which resulted in the unique light colouring to the wine.
“We were so impressed at the level of natural sweetness in the must that we took a sample to have it officially tested. The result was a whopping 325 g/l. Then we proceeded with a cool fermentation, using sweet wine yeast, stopped at 10% vol leaving a Residual Sugar of 122g/L. The wine was then left in American Oak Barrels for six weeks post fermentation before bottling.
“We believe that no other vineyard has ever recorded naturally occurring sweetness levels like this in the UK.
“We tasted it at Christmas 2020, but it wasn’t quite ready, then we opened a bottle to taste on Dad’s birthday in August and realised it was already incredibly special, after only 2½ years in bottle. I can’t wait to see how it develops over the next 10 years. My advice would be to drink one now and keep another to lay down!” adds Tom.
Julian Barnes has been making wines at Biddenden since 1975. He walks the vineyards every day with the dogs, morning and evening and inspects and tastes the fruit, following the journey of Biddenden wines every step of the way.
“We’re always just one day away from being able to pick each of our twelve varieties. Our Ortega vines are some of the oldest in the country at nearly 50 years old. The way we see it, our wines are made in the vineyard, rather than in the winery, and as we all live on-site, we can wait until the precise moment that the fruit is ready and pick. It’s one of the reasons that Biddenden wines are so exceptional; as we always ‘pick perfect’. Afterall, our furthest vines are only 600 metres away from the winery.” says Julian, second generation owner of Biddenden Vineyard.
Biddenden Ortega Late Harvest 2018 – price and availability:
In a nod to the distinctive natural sugar content, Biddenden Ortega Late Harvest 2018 is priced at £122 per 37.5cl bottle. These limited edition bottles are perfect for collectors, wrapped in luxury tissue paper and presented in an elegant navy presentation tube designed by Clyde Presentation Packaging, finished with gold embossed labelling designed by Oak Creative and printed by Park Group.
The new Biddenden Ortega Late Harvest 2018 can be purchased from Biddenden Vineyards’ website from the 7th September 2021 and is being launched to the trade and press at the WineGB Trade and Press Tasting.
The wine has a distinctive light colour, with aromas of fruit, floral and honey notes on the nose.
Looking to the future:
“We have so many plans for the future here at Biddenden. It’s a beautiful setting, where guests are able to explore the estate and taste our wines as part of both Self-Guided and Private Tours. With a range of varieties and winemaking techniques, there really is a wine to suit everyone.” says Tom Barnes.
The vineyard currently grows twelve varieties of grape across 23 acres of south facing slopes, producing award-winning white, red, rosé, sweet and sparkling quality English wines. Ortega, Biddenden’s signature variety, accounts for approximately half of the vineyard. Biddenden is also a member of the Kent wine tourism cluster Wine Garden of England.
Julian Barnes describes the explosion of wine making in the UK: “As a realisation, grapes in the UK, like some other agricultural crops, have always been quite robust until the sugars start to rise. Investment in research has added greatly to advances in agronomy and winemaking, when coupled with earlier seasons, England is producing some outstanding wines, which are exemplified in Kent.”