Degorging the 2015 Vintage

It’s Sunday 17 March 2018, it’s minus 3 degrees and it's just too cold to go outside to degorge the 2015 vintage English Sparkling Wine. It's always best to carry out this operation while it's cool, but the wind chill from the 'Beast from the East' is just too chilly for us to work outside, so for a change the degorging was done inside the winery.

Each English Sparkling Wine bottle is put into a neck freezer to freeze the yeast which has been hand riddled for at least two weeks. The neck freezes after approximately 10 minutes, at which point the metal cap is removed, the juice explodes and the yeast comes flying out of the bottle (you must keep your thumb over the lip of the bottle so you don't lose too much juice onto the floor). This is all done under the supervision of a master wine maker, who was very appreciative of staying inside and out of the snow.

At this stage the yeast has a unique and intoxicating aroma which I adore; this has to be my favourite part of the intricate process of nurturing the wine into its final sparkling glory. Having said that, degorging 500 hundred bottles per day is really the maximum that can be done by hand; it’s exhausting! The creation of English Sparkling Wine really is a labour of love.

Platon

It's a mama and papa operation... Here's the mama!

The English Sparkling Wine bottles at Four Acres Estate are 'riddled' or turned by hand twice a day for a minimum of two weeks before they are are manually degorged, dosaged, corked and muzzled. Then they are shaken by Sharron, a minimum of ten times for each bottle to get the dosage fully mixed with the sparkling wine (under the supervision of a master wine maker), before Sharron climbs a ladder and stacks the bottles on the top wire cage. Sharron is in fact our fork-lift truck for the day.

Platon :-)

Rob Gabriel's bees

I went down to the local Little Hadham farmers' market which takes place once a month in the village hall and I met the local beekeeper Rob Gabriel. His honey is very popular in the village and that gave me the idea of putting a couple of beehives in to help pollinate the 200 plus apple trees in the Four Acres Estate orchard.

I spoke to Bob Bayford, my friend and builder, and I said "Bob, I met Rob the beekeeper and I want to ask him to put a couple of hives in my apple orchard. Do you know him?“ "Yes" he said, in a dry, quiet voice. “He did me a favour once...” I looked at him and asked, "What was that Bob?" He replied, “He married my sister.” I was in stitches for weeks!

Very happy to report that the bee hives have now arrived and the honey is superb. For the best honey in Little Hadham, see www.gabrielshoneyfarm.co.uk