The quality of our grapes is of prime importance when looking after our vines throughout the year. Each vine is independently assessed during pruning to judge the strength of the vine, which in turn determines the amount of buds we can leave to grow. We use specific hands-on canopy management from the first stages of bud burst in spring, right up to harvest time in early autumn. These jobs can be very time consuming but are a far more precise way of looking after our vines, than it would be if we mechanised the jobs.
There are a number of factors that make our vineyard unique. First of all our soil; we enjoy the South Downs chalk, which in places is only four inches under the top soil. The vines are all grafted onto specific root stocks that can handle the specific attributes of chalk. The roots penetrate this chalk and absorb the minerals that produce Exton park wines’ natural flavours. The chalk is high in alkaline, making the vines work for what they need. This in turn helps to control the vigour of the vines, keeping the vine’s canopies thin and allowing more air flow through the vines and to concentrate the vine’s energy into the grapes.
The altitude of Exton Park ranges from 122 meters, down to 65 meters above sea level, giving us different microclimates throughout the vineyard and allowing for site specific flavoured fruit that we optimise during our blending.
The majority of our Pinot Noir faces South South East, allowing the grapes to enjoy the strongest mid-day sun on the sides of the vines. This helps to ripen the grapes at an early stage, increasing sugar levels, and allowing for a slightly earlier harvest, whilst our Chardonnay and Pinot Meunier face the more traditional North South direction. This, and the correct choice of vine clones, enables us during harvest to pick the sections of the vineyard that are at the optimum without having the whole area ripen at the same time.
All the grapes are harvested by hand, reducing any risk of damage to the grapes before they get to the press.
In the vineyard we keep the soil bare of grass and weeds. This is to raise the temperature, reduce the humidity, and help with air flow through the vines. These factors all help to reduce the risk of fungal infection, and help in ripening the grapes. To keep the weeds under control we use an organic approach by cultivating in between and underneath the vines. By reducing the use of herbicides we help to increase the biological life in the soil.