Vine growing in English vineyard

Spring/ Summer 2023 Update

We are finally getting some sunshine, following the dreariest winter I can remember. 

It still feels surreal that we have a vineyard, with real vines growing, that will grow real grapes to make real wine! After years of dreaming about somehow doing this, we have finally done it. 

rainbow in the vineyard

The vineyard last November

Now, we need to wait and hope and also make quite a lot of decisions regarding the way we manage the vineyard.

Even though I was lucky to study viticulture for three years at Plumpton College and work in various vineyards and wine companies, I feel like nothing can prepare for you planting your own vineyard and then being responsible for its wellbeing. 

It actually reminds me of being a parent, even though books exist that purport to guide you through the process, in reality every child is different, as is every vineyard. There are so many different ways of doing things, but the common goal is to create a healthy, happy, balanced vineyard or child! 

2025 is going to be our first actual harvest, so a lot can happen from now, until then. We will inevitably experience obstacles, so watch this space!

Vicky and I recently went to a regenerative viticulture seminar, where expert speakers and vineyard owners such as; Ben Walgate from Tillingham Vineyard and Hugo Stewart from Domaine Hugo, spoke candidly about their experiences of raising vineyards using regenerative viticulture methods.  

Hugo Stewart & Jamie Goode
Hugo Stewart & Jamie Goode

This in short, is a kind of philosophy of methods and ideas that promote prioritising soil health, in order to encourage biodiversity, with a view to your vineyard becoming stronger and more resilient to disease and climate change challenges. Two big elements involve minimising the need for fungicides and pesticides and reducing soil disturbances, in order to lock carbon in. There is obviously so much more on this subject, a book on my list of books to read, is Jamie Goode's 'Regenerative Viticulture'. 

We were so inspired by this seminar, as some of the methods are achievable for a vineyard of our size. The first thing we actioned was to get a soil carbon audit done. This essentially gave us a score that indicates how much carbon sequestration in happening in the soil, to get a good score, you will need to have healthy soil full of life and diversity. We actually got a pretty good score, which considering our vineyard is at the early stage, is reassuring. 

We were also inspired to experiment with grazing the sheep and alpacas in the vineyard, to suppress weeds and add in some nutrient rich manure. This was successful for a number of weeks, but the Herdwick sheep, who as a breed are notorious for escaping, found several routes out. One of the bigger Rylands (no names mentioned) decided to repeatedly head butt the trellis posts and also bent some of the metal support rods. Not the end of the world! But we will need to think again about which sheep we let in the vineyard next winter.

cheeky sheep in the vineyard, Herdwicks, Rylands and alpacas

We pruned the vineyard slighter later than we intended to, but well before the sap was flowing through the canes. We were lucky to have Sam Barnes our vineyard consultant come out and just run through the technique with us. It felt weird to prune the vines down to two buds, as it seemed like they were reduced to tiny sticks! 

pruning the vineyard

Pruning the vines this winter

We didn't need to worry, because the vines are thriving and already peeking over their nursery tubes, redirecting their energy into the chosen lead cane. 

vine growth in spring healthy vines 

blossom of apple tree

The cider apple orchard next to the vineyard looks great too, the trees are full of blossom. 

We are excited for this summer, watching the vines grow and hosting events in the vineyard and by the lake. 


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