I didn’t get round to publishing this retirement / vineyard blog last week as planned, other blogs took priority. So now I’m publishing it I’ve added some bits – more de-budding, visiting another colleague’s vineyard to buy willows, planting willows and now some more vines – to the original blog rather than rewrite the whole thing.
Trapping Hill Vineyard
It’s been a heck of a two weeks in the Yorkshire wine world. The weekend before last we had the meeting of the Yorkshire Vineyards association. It’s not quite a breakaway group from the Mercian Vineyard Association but it’s a kind of parallel world. Apparently the MVA is a bit twitchy because recently the Welsh vineyards ‘broke away’ from the MVA to establish their own association. That takes 14 vineyards out of the MVA – hope you’re following this. So arranging our meeting on the very same day as the MVA’s AGM could be regarded as careless at best and positively Machiavellian at worst. I think I can safely say it was the former. So Sunday we had our meeting with 5 Yorkshire vineyards of widely varying ambitions, size and production – we have no wine -yet -at one end of the scale. Chris at Yorkshire Heart is hoping to put 10,000 bottles out there. So, we’re disparate group bonded by varying degrees of insanity. I shall return to this collective insanity in a moment. Insanity was much in evidence at our Trapping Hill vineyard on Monday and Tuesday. Our wind-swept (you can’t see the wind in the photo above)vineyard ranks up there with the search for the North West passage, a fresh water lake in outback Australia and the Loch Ness Monster. It’s madness, madness I tell you. But on the brighter side let me tell you about our buds. I have read that one acre of vineyard equals one day’s work a week. We have half an acre. I can’t say that we’ve been putting in anywhere near half a day a week but that was before this week, when we will put in best part of three days. And it’s all down to those buds. I said in my last blog that we had been hoping for buds and had got buds. At a casual glance they appeared very small. However what we hadn’t reckoned on was the fact that, while what we could see above the tube was miniscule, what was happening in the protective warmth of the tube itself was fairly massive. I have included some of the worst photos ever as an indication. So, yes, the buds were definitely budding out of sight. Who could blame them for largely staying within the tube because it was bloody freezing out in the open. The point is that the buds in the tubes were so advanced they very much needed removing or all the growth would be in these shoots rather than the main stem.
Buds in the right place
Buds in the wrong place
But it was so cold that we had to stop after an hour or so because our fingers were so frozen they wouldn’t work. So we plan to return to finish off at the weekend. I tell you all these people who, according to a survey in this weekend’s papers will not pay more than £6 a bottle have no idea of the suffering that goes into making English (as now is) wine. And talking of the survey it feels a little indecent having taken Le Tour from the French to now be rivalling them as wine producers. The survey said that France was the country from which the British consumer preferred to buy wine. As I looked round the table at this formidable group of vineyard owners taking the piss out of each other I thought, those poor French people they don’t know what’s coming. Actually that’s not quite true, what I really thought is bloody hell, will we ever agree on anything? And in fact we did agree, we agreed that we should proceed with our plan to continue to set up our Yorkshire Wines website. Coming to a computer near you quite soon. We decided that as well as promoting our various vineyards it would have a ‘how to’ and a ‘news page’ and, as I was the only person who could write, I was elected as editor of the ‘news’ section. I think you’ll agree that that’s news. It certainly was to me. The rest of the meeting was aided and abetted by information from Ian at Laurel Vineyard about the cost of bottles – 25p if you want to know, 45p for sparkling. The discussion about the cost of labels fell apart a bit because there are so many options. But we did look at some very attractive labels he had done for his forthcoming vintage release. The adventure continues – on Friday we drove over to Heather and Henry’s farm in East Yorkshire or whatever it’s called now, to pick up 100 willow ‘trees’. This in our unending search for wind protection. I have to say right away that I had always thought our vineyard was scenically the best but having seen H and H’s vineyard I may need to reconsider. Judge for yourself by comparing photos. Let’s just say they’re both beautiful. We picked up the willows which Henry had kindly cut in half because otherwise we would not have been able to get them and the dogs in the Land Rover. The 90 doesn’t have a lot of space in the back to begin with but when you put in a permanent dog ‘cage’, there’s even less. So instead of having 100 to plant we had 200. We planted all 200 last Saturday, it was wet but not too cold, relatively speaking. Mostly they were easy to plant – you just pushed them into the ground – some of them didn’t want to go in but we made them. They don’t look very impressive just yet but Henry assured me they grow about 10 feet in a year. We will have to monitor their progress carefully otherwise the greatest asset of our little vineyard – the view – will disappear under a multitude of willow ‘trees’. On Sunday we went up to the vineyard again to de-bud the remaining 9 rows and managed only 6 because it was, once again, unbelievably cold. Roll on willow trees, we need the protection never mind the vines. And finally, in this all-happening fortnight, we drove to Harrogate to take delivery of another 75 vines from Stuart and Elizabeth Smith our vine suppliers, 25 to replace plants we’ve lost – Madeleine Angevine – and 50 new varieties – Pinot Noir (greater madness still) and Seyval Blanc. The latter as a part of our cunning plan to make sparkling wine! The former because it’s my favourite grape although totally unsuited to our site. Hey ho. I’ll write about the planting next time, this is more than enough information for one blog. And finally, finally, a couple of things I noticed in this weekend’s Observer Food supplement, that gave me ideas about our USP but I’ll save that for next month’s blog. So who would have thought that in retirement this is what I’d be doing.