Well, not quite but we have made a start with our 2018 first harvest at the winery as I write. The prevailing weather conditions mean that we are now within the climatic margins of where it is possible to ripen grapes. Our pre-planting evaluations have identified that we should be able to produce grapes with naturally high acidity and low sugar levels - ideal for making top quality fizz.
The pre-planting checks included:
- We first need to choose the right location on the farm which is essentially not only open to the sun from dawn til dusk and south facing, but also with an angled slope towards the sun, sheltered from the prevailing winds by the new apple and pear trees and well drained. Phew!
- Check the all important PH value for the site.
Then the really tough stuff kicks in - selecting the right style of wine – that’s a taxing job. Lots of tasting and re-tasting to hone our skill.
We have been advised that many British vineyards have failed previously because the most suitable vine varieties for English and Welsh climates weren't planted. The varieties being planted now tend not to be those which were planted 30 years, or even 10 or 15 years ago. The most ideal vines for us can now be readily obtained from specialist suppliers (who import directly from continental sources) as rooted cuttings or container grown plants.
Once we get the vines they then need to be planted in the prepared ground at a minimum of four foot intervals in rows between four feet six inches and up to six or even eight feet apart (the larger distances if a tractor or other machinery is to be used for spraying etc and we have yet to decide) to create a warm micro-climate. The growing vines will then need to be secured to a trellis which comprises a series of galvanised (or stainless steel) wires with the lowest one a single fixed wire and the higher ones twin wires spaced by the width of the posts.
There’s loads for us to learn as like any plants, vines can also suffer from various pests and diseases etc. Mildews and botrytis are real hazards in grape-growing in the British climate which is often damp (really?). The planting of rose bushes at row ends is a traditional indicator for the presence of mildews as the roses are apparently more susceptible, we may try this. But at any rate, a vigilant eye needs to be kept for the first signs of any attack or infestation.
After that, it’s just a matter of watching over the vines until they mature and furnish us with our first vintage!
Keep in touch with us for future updates…..