2023 in the Vines

gently pressed, happily fermentED, QUIETLY RESTING…

As we welcome 2024, and our 2023 wines are now quietly resting in tank and barrel, we recap on last year in the vines. Before Christmas we spoke to Vineyard Manager, Travis Salisbury, for his view from the vineyard. ‘As I sit down typing this, I stare out to the vines in our oldest vineyard (Findon Park Vineyard) on a wet autumnal day. The leaves holding tight as the vines start to shut down for the winter showing beautiful, vibrant colours of yellow and orange as they flap uncontrollably, some even cut clean as they rest on the floor ready for the all-out fight for survival in the decomposition war, recycling what little nutrients are left back to the vine for future years. The canes, ripe and ready, a beautiful mahogany brown colour as they await their annual haircuts. Valuable carbohydrates are now being relocated towards the vine’s woody tissues – the trunks and roots where they will be saved until April when they kick off budburst. The vines are in hibernation mode after an extremely satisfying and abundant vintage, ready for their much-needed winter rest. What a vintage – an extremely challenging one, but at the other side we stand with all wines safely in tank and onwards we march to the 2024 season.’

Wiston Estate Vineyards, South Downs National Park
Pruning the vines at Wiston Estate, South Downs in West Sussex for English Sparkling Wine


Looking back, pruning kicked off in mid-December 2022, and is one of the most important tasks throughout the year. It helps to control canopy, vine vigour and yield. With secateurs at our sides and sheep for company, the team begun making cuts, removing over 90% of last years wood and selecting renewal spurs and canes for the 2023 season. All 43,186 vines were pruned, pulled out and tied down by the 31st of March, ready to see what fruitfulness the vines may offer.


As the northern hemisphere began to pull closer to the sun, the above average temperatures kicked off budburst on the 9th April, seven days ahead of average for our sites. The abnormal spell of warm weather over spring increased osmotic pressures in the vines showing us the first signs that the growing season was about to kick off. As per normal, Chardonnay first, Pinot Noir shortly followed, with late awakener Pinot Meunier running slightly behind. Budburst between all three varieties was less spread out than normal, with even shoot development continuing into May and June increased by high temperatures seen over this period. Like a double-edged sword, the early bud burst warranted many a sleepless night but as the temperatures held above zero, frost risk decreased, and the vines were off and away with the 2023 season.

Cover crops were drilled on the 8th of April and slowly begun to germinate but not all took to such a fertile soil. Unfavorable weather lowered germination percentages decreasing the amount of seed taking to the freshly prepared soil. Wild radish, selfheal and crimson clover were some of the strongest to take to their new ground. Flowers of red, blue and purple layered the alley floors in-between vines

Wooly bud – 5 April 2023    //    Budburst – 09 April 2023

Budburst at Wiston Estate, South Downs in West Sussex for English Sparkling Wine. Wine making, Vineyards
Tom and Travis, vineyard team working the vines at wiston estate, west sussex


As vine shoots elongated, they began to show the early signs of what the crop may look like. Fruit development, a two-year cycle started last year in 2022. The early heat wave of 2022 essentially set up the harvest for 2023, with mother nature being the missing link in this equation. Flowering started on the 22nd  June 2023 with good conditions ensuring quick pollination and fertilization. These ideal conditions (sunny, low wind and warm temperatures) allowed the rapid completion of flowering. Weather conditions up to this point were favorable with little rain and lower than usual disease pressure. The completion of flowering took a mere 12 days on par with mammoth vintages like 2018. The first signs of the young clusters on the vines, at this point a mere three days behind 2018! The month of July followed with a major turn in the weather, disease pressure ramped up and the rain just kept on coming. Good weather was in short supply and the weatherman struggled to give accurate forecasts pulling back the ropes on what looked like a phenomenal start to the 2023 vintage! With a record breaking 23.1mm falling in one hour, the vineyard quickly turned into a swamp. As the rain fell the rapid cell division and enlargement of berries began, this amount of excess water increased bunch swell, enlarging clusters marginally. Weed management under vine was increased by the heavy precipitation seen over this period, increasing competition for much needed nutrients to the vine.

Flowering – 22 June 2023     //     Berry set – 04 July 2023

grape development…

The shoots grew longer while the grapes slowly synthesized much needed compounds, acids and sugars beneficial to Wiston’s unique style. Leaf stripping started on the 17th of July 2023 with both east and west facing sides being done to ensure adequate spray penetration, increased sunlight while lowering the humidity throughout the bunch zone. In years like this opening the bunch zone is key to ensuring quality, this can reduce damp areas around the fruit zone which stimulate fungal pathogens. Trimming was rigorous while canopy management helped limit shading throughout the vineyard row. Our younger block, North Farm Valley relished in the wetter than usual period with vegetative growth flourishing as the shoots grew long enough to look at establishment on their trunks for the 2024 pruning season.

Grape development at Wiston Estate, West Sussex. English Sparkling Wine vines. English winemaking.
Veraison at Wiston Estate, West Sussex. English Sparkling Wine grapes. Pinot Noir


Late August showed the first signs of bunch closure and versaison, whereby individual berries in red varieties start to change colour from green to red, all berries softened, sugars start building and acids are diluted. Veraison, 11 days later than 2018 and quickly losing all momentum. Hot weather was needed! Sugar development was overall slow, lowering potential alcohol content, a necessity to our wines. Yet once, the age-old game of risk was brought back up to the table pick early or risk trusting the weatherman that the weather report holds clear.  Sugar and acid sampling was undertaken weekly to assess acid and sugar relationships and harvest dates with final cluster weights taken for final harvest yield forecasting. Final forecasts for bunch weights came in higher compared to other vintages at Wiston Estate.


No vintage is the same in the UK and mother nature reinforced those words in the 2023 vintage. Growing grapes in a marginal climate is no joke, every decision could be amplified by another, it is an extremely tight rope we are walking on.  A welcome increase in temperature in late September gave the vines a much-needed push. Transpiration increased in the vines and photosynthesis was stimulated by the increase in radiation provided by the high light intensity days seen over this period. Work did not stop with weekly sampling and scouting still in full swing as the crop rolled close to the start of harvest. With just a few weeks left until harvest, acids began to drop and fall they did. Malic acid degradation had begun, and harvest was imminent. Overall sugars and acids came it at targeted parameters with flavours showing no green characteristics.  The harvest lasted three weeks aided by professionals, volunteers and our wonderful estate team. The first day of harvest started on the 3rd October 2023 with our earliest Chardonnay site Broadwoods coming into the winery. We started on our North Farm block next. Our first Pinot Noir plot to be picked, all being picked in just one day! The 14th October saw the start of our mature vines – Findon ParkVvineyard, first the reds and then onto whites. By the 24th the last clusters were being picked off our Pinot Noir in Findon Park Vineyard – which for the vineyard team, meant a big sigh of relief!

Harvest for English Sparkling Wine at Wiston Estate, West Sussex. The heart of the South Downs in West Sussex.

Meet our Vineyard Manager, Travis Salisbury