The months of winter, all quiet in the vineyard. Well not quite all quiet, first there is the on-going saga of winter pruning. I mentioned in a previous blog that I had been a on a course about winter pruning and that I was keen for both of us to get started on this aspect before we forgot what I had learned. The first time we tried to prune we were beaten soundly by the weather (see attractive photo right). It was horizontal rather than the traditional vertical stuff. It was almost like it was coming from the earth rather than the sky, Even in waterproofs it was impossible. We tried again a few weeks later and managed about half of the vineyards 500 vines. Then this last weekend we tried to finish off but despite what was an absolutely beautiful day (sun and no wind and I can’t tell you how rare that is -see photo at end, taken before pruning) we still have 8 rows left. This at the time of first writing, now we’ve done them all. Mrs Summerhouse pruned all the first year vines and I carried on trying to make our three year vines look like the ones we had learned about on the course. Some bore a faint resemblance but most were in a world of their own. I’m hoping next weekend to finish the job – see above.
Of course it hasn’t been all been about pruning, there has been the on-going task of standing the vines back up after being flattened by the wind. Needless to say we have had some pretty spectacular gales in the last month or so. Even in normal parts of the country this has been the case so where we are well, say no more. After the pruning they are going to be even more susceptible to the wind. One thing that had kept most of the vines more or less upright was the fact that the vines were so attached to the wires. Now most of them, for now at least, are just left dangling. So I’d appreciate it if we had no more gales. Ha, what’s that expression – the march winds do blow or something like that. Oh goody.
After three hours of solid pruning last Sunday we called into our local, The Crown in Lofthouse, for a drink – a bottle of Clive’s finest. If we can’t make it we can still drink it. Conversation revolved around the drop we did get and what we had still in demijohns waiting to be bottled – if this ever happens. At that time of day there were only a few locals in the bar. Two of whom were gamekeepers I think. They overheard the conversation I was having with Clive about the bf birds. They suggested trying one of these gas driven shotguns that fire off randomly and which they use to keep the pigeons off of the grouse or the other way round. One of the chaps said that, as we would be likely to need to gas gun or whatever it’s called at a different time of year to him, he would lend us one of these machines to experiment with. Which was jolly kind of him. Unless something better comes along we will probably give this a try. I asked if the noise of the shotgun firing upset the neighbours, a faint smile flitted across his face, not where you are he said, you haven’t really got any neighbours so there is something to be said for our splendid isolation. We discussed netting which he didn’t think would reduce the sunlight on the vines and also what sounded like a bigger version of those children’s windmills on a stick that you stick in the sand at the seaside. I told him I thought I had found the answer when I came across heli-kites. Nitrogen filled balloons that swooped and dived reproducing the antics of birds of prey. These seemed like a good idea until one of the other growers on the course said that they regularly got tangled up and unless you were there on a daily basis to unravel them they were useless. Our whole problem is that we’re not there on a daily basis, we make it up to the vineyard once a week at most. So heli-kites no good. So somewhere in this world of bird-scaring hopefully lies the answer.
Outside of our small wine world and its little problems lies the ever-growing world of other English and even Yorkshire vineyards some of which I have referred to before. We belong to the Wessex Vineyard Association (WVA) and, as a member, we can attend an increasing number of locally based courses (Yorkshire Heart Vineyard in Nun Monkton, near York) like the pruning course. Another benefit is that we are regularly sent electronic information about what is happening in our large area. Just recently we received the latest map of vineyards in our area. I had not had the temerity to propose that our modest little venture should be on it but when I saw one of my near neighbours with less than half the vines we have had had the confidence to put their vineyard on the map, I rather wished I had put ours forward. Maybe next year if we survive as a wine-making enterprise.
Another whole lot of information about the wine world arrived in my email box in the form of a review from a number of working groups of the future of English wine. A number of recommendations are being made and members are being asked for their comments.
Exercise One: Defining a Vision
“What would you like the English wine industry to look like in 10 years time – where do you want it to be?”
The answers to this question are ‘vision’ statements. The statements produced by the groups were compared and the 16 most mentioned ‘visions’ were selected to be examined. These statements are listed in the Annex pages 6 -7 together with all the other less mentioned statements.
A few of these were as follows:
|1. Recognition of excellence||Global Recognition|
|2. Quality||Recognition of quality|
|3. Recognition Marketing||Unique and Distinctive|
|4. Integrity of product||Respected identity|
|5. Global success||Growth & diversity|
|6. Strong governance||Professional and well organised, Collaborative|
|7. Sustainability – environment||Diverse|
|8. Sustainability – business||Profitable|
Glad to see ‘diverse’ on the list, albeit low down, because if we’re ever going to be in the loop English wines-wise then being different will be our category.
I confess I would feel something of an imposter offering feedback on what has become an important industry for many people while we are mere bumbling – very bumbling at times – amateurs. But who knows what the future holds for our vineyard and what retirement holds for us generally.
Finally, a different bit of information from the UKVA, at the same time as the England v New Zealand cricket match in the World Cup there is a taste off between English and New Zealand wines both in Wellington in New Zealand and London. English wines have come a long way, remains to be seen how far, but we’ve come a long way as well because it was in New Zealand in 1995 that we first had the idea of owning a vineyard. Now in our retirement we’re living the dream or in the case of the birds, the nightmare.
I wrote the above before the game, now we know the result of the game we can only hope that English wines did better, much better, than English cricket. Sport, TG Forest seem to be on the up with their new manager. We will see, not the time to get giddy.