Tears were flowing faster than the river Rother in East Sussex in September 2016, as the much anticipated inaugural vintage from southern England's newest boutique producer, Waterhouse, was declared a resounding and unmitigated flop!
Late frosts killed off new buds twice before the vines finally started making progress in earnest in April, too late to expect an abundance of fully ripe fruit, despite the ensuing benevolent and dry summer.
The blend itself, inspired apparently by the novella For Esme With Love and Squalor by JD Salinger, and envisaged as a secret blend (from left to right, top to bottom) of Pinot Blanc x 1, Pinot Noir x 2, Bacchus x 2, Semillon x 1, Pinot Noir x (another) 1, and Chardonnay x 1, is the brainchild of head winemaker Archie McDuff, formerly of Oddbins. The vineyard, however, has produced only a small number of unevenly formed clusters in 2016; most impressively from the Chardonnay (pictured with junior enologist, Maddie May).
McDuff commented: "Ach it's early days. At least we retracted on our initial plan to make Malbec. Nobody likes Malbec. Next year we're confident yields will be sufficient to produce at least one bottle. And, as Frank Sinatra says, 'If I can't make it anywhere, I'll make it there'."
Sales and marketing director, Eileen McNaebrane, added: "We've learned some valuable lessons in 2016, and we are fully committed to delivering an impressive product in 2017. In retrospect, it's a good thing we only invested in one new oak barrel. Fortunately the local garden centre has agreed to give us a full refund. After all, it wouldn't have been a new barrel next year, know what I mean? No doubt someone will find it useful for ageing potatoes or something."
So, the UK wine trade must wait another year it seems, for the Waterhouse Blend to transmogrify from dream to reality. In the meantime, I guess we'll just have to keep drinking Malbec. And other stuff.