The prospects for English wine are rosy. Investment in new vineyards and wineries is on the up as is the quality of both sparkling and still wines … if you have yet to try an English wine now is an excellent time to do so be it still or sparkling.
Annual Review of The Wine Society 2015-2016
Meanwhile back in the real world, well our real world of the Yorkshire Dales anyway (I took the above photo a couple of weeks before we went on holiday, it’s bit more grown now – everything), let me pick up this blog with where I left the last one. That is with the buds. I wrote last time that the buds were just starting to appear in mid-April. We’ve been away from the vineyard on account of our Irish trip for exactly one month and when we went up there this last weekend the buds were well and truly bursting out all over. If you didn’t know very much about vineyards you would probably think that a lot of buds is a good thing, a sign of a healthy plant. In a way you’d be right (the fertiliser I applied a couple of months ago seems to be paying dividends) but you’d also be very wrong. At the top of the vine you need a limited number of shoots to develop with all the strength of the vine going into these shoots to produce a good quality grape. Removing the ‘surplus to requirements’ buds at the top of the vine is quite easy, they’re even at the right height for those of us with back problems, but the ones further down, i.e. in the tube are a very different kettle of fish. We feel we have to keep the tubes on to protect the vines from the wabbits which so happily share our vineyard. I’m surprised they aren’t posing in the photo above. I mentioned in the last blog that as well as buying some replacement vines (remind me to show you my new special hole-digging spade in a future blog, it’s a thing of beauty) I had tried to propagate our own by the subtle method of sticking the cuttings straight into the ground. The wabbits said thanks very much and snacked on my off shoots, so this money-saving strategy has not been successful. Hence we keep the tubes. This means that to get to the off-shoot buds inside the tubes we have to cut open the tube. A tricky task and the one ‘we’ are currently engaged in so we can join the positive prospects for English wine as in the above report.
The younger vines are still straight enough to be able to raise the tube to break off unwanted buds but the mature ones, the majority, need the tubes cutting which means cutting the best part, I would say, of 400 tubes. A pain of a task and, as I sit in my deck-chair, I get quite weary watching Mrs Summerhouse struggling with the Stanley knife. It’s not easy having a vineyard you know, just ask Mrs SH. She gets the job on account of the fact that she does not have a bad back and being a yoga teacher is nicely flexible. Lucky girl. I get to do the more manly tasks around the vineyard like fixing the hinge on one of the sheds (yes, I have more than one), re-waterproofing the benches, yes we have more than one and spraying the nettles (yes we have a lot more than one).
It’s bad news on the OCD front in that it’s not only the vines that have sprouted, the grass and, worse still, the above nettles have also come along nicely. I’ve been nagging my farmer neighbour to get me some weed-killer, stuff that supposedly is so powerful that only a certificated person can purchase it. Finally this visit, when I collared him in the pub, he told me he had some for me. A disappointingly small amount. 1 litre against the 5 litres he got me the last few times, whether this stuff is five times more powerful only time will tell, certainly the nettles did not immediately keel over and beg for mercy, in fact in the years I’ve been spraying them, they have developed nicely, a possible side effect of fertilising the vines even though I try and keep the fertiliser just around the base of the vine. So some selective spraying of nettles and the beginning of the bigger job of spraying along the rows so that the vines aren’t competing with the grass which has also developed nicely. As I say OCD is not a good condition to bring back to the vineyard when you’ve been away a month and every other plant we’ve noticed on our doggie walks has doubled in size and gone from bare to luxuriant. In a nutshell the place looks a mess. I have asked my other neighbour to do some strimming for me, a task I thought I would enjoy but am now willing to pay good money to have done for me. I also believe he does enjoy it and, as he says, in retirement there’s that word I haven’t mentioned so far, it gives him something to do.
A brief aside, we still have spare land that we have not used for vines and, at the moment, I am not inclined to plant any more. Maybe one day. We also have a considerable amount of netting that we bought in an attempt to keep the birds off. Frankly it was more trouble than it was worth and with great irritation, we have taken it off (Olive the Owl it’s up to you now, maybe I’ll get her a mate) it wasn’t easy to get it off and it’s now lying in a heap next to the shed reminding me of the £200 we’ve so far wasted. So we have land and we have netting, what to do? Then I had an idea. I thought maybe we would try some fruit growing – gooseberries, you don’t seem to see many of them these days and as a kid I loved them or maybe blackcurrants, we’ll see. Mrs Summerhouse was surprised by my suggestion and even more surprised by my idea of planting some apple trees to supplement the willows which are our wind-breaks and growing nicely. Ideas, that’s my thing, all I need is somebody to carry them out and our diversification goals will be under way. As I always say, if at first you don’t succeed, try something else.