It’s over a month since the last vineyard blog and plenty has been happening in our vineyard. Not least the on-going battle with the elements up in Yorkshire. No hail so far but plenty of what I would call unseasonal wind. This has meant a great deal of tying up of those ever-increasing shoots, the ones that seemed so securely attached before the high winds came along. I have to confess that after tying up several rows, I got bored and simply chopped off the hanging shoots. Whether this harms the crop we have yet to find out. Once again this business of operating at the ‘margins’ rears its windy head. Because of this constant battle with the elements we are forced to take comfort from any source that offers such comfort. Like the quote below.
“It may be fairly said to be one of the best kept secrets of these islands the fact is that though the grapevine is most productive in sunnier, hotter climes, it produces wine of the highest quality where it is at the very margins of its existence – that is England and Wales.”
So wrote Robert J Tarr in The History of English Wine.
The ‘very margins of its existence’, that’s us alright. I took this to mean that while we may not make a lot of wine it would be of a very high quality or, at the very least, it would be ‘interesting’ wine. We shall see. I actually stumbled across this quote when doing a bit of on-line research about Welsh wines. I had noticed that there is quite a prominent Welsh wine trail that people are encouraged to follow and I thought that, when the school holidays are over, we might give this a try. Not only do Welsh wines seem to be winning awards it also occurred to me that surely the Welsh climate can’t be all that much more propitious than our Yorkshire climate so worth checking how they manage to punch above their weight so to speak.
One thing I bet they don’t have in Wales is Olive the owl and now, sound of trumpets, her brother Oswald the owl (see above), the latest addition to our battle against nature, in this latter case, the bloody birds. This time last year Olive stood alone against her ornithological brothers and sisters. Can you just see her in the photo below? Given the netting we erected was more trouble than it was worth, it was Olive who seemed to do an excellent job of protecting our grapes against an insensitive bird population. Olive has been brought out of partial retirement and anchored in place for the late summer, see photo below. We didn’t actually pick any grapes last year as they didn’t look too good but at least, thanks to Olive, we think, they were there to pick had we chosen to do so. So, as you can see we decided to buy Olive a partner to share the load and perhaps the loneliness. Not sure owls are particularly social birds but hopefully they will take some kind of pleasure in each other’s company.
While all this tying up was going off I was engaged in the manly tasks of weed-killing and even some strimming. I usually try and avoid the strimming and leave this for my neighbour to do. I hate starting or rather not starting the bloody thing. Anything with a pull cord starter is to be avoided in my opinion, but this time I decided the front of the barn needed some attention, it was starting to look positively high savanna like whereas the vineyard itself, due to my neighbour’s efforts and my weed-killing efforts, is looking quite smart. As well as the front of the barn I used the strimmer to carve out, or rather reinstate, the path up to the bench (see view down path below) at the top of the vineyard. I have probably said before that there is no task that looks like such fun when watching somebody else doing it and is actually such a huge pain when doing it oneself. So by the time I’d done the front and the path I had nothing left to develop new paths. Maybe next time?
In the broader context of our vineyard and life in the dale we have been to the local Niddfest. This is a weekend festival held in the village of Middlesmoor broadly around local poetry and story-telling. As we were in the vicinity I went to one of the talks, given by Stephen Ramsden (an important chap, a kind of local lord, in that his family have been the largest land-owners in the dale for hundreds of years – not sure how long he did say but I didn’t write it down) about the influence of man on this top end of Nidderdale. It only lasted half an hour but it was an interesting half hour with Stephen telling the assembled audience in the church yard (see below) about various activities – from lead-mining in the 19th? Century, to sheep and cattle farming,
shooting and tourism today. As, when he delivered his talk, he was in fact looking straight at our vineyard and when he was asked by a member of his audience what he thought the future of the dale was, I was disappointed he didn’t mention vine- growing. Shooting birds was his answer which personally I found a bit disappointing, but hey I’m an in-comer, what do I know. At the end of his talk I mentioned this to him, he said oh, that’s you is it? But he said it pleasantly and while he didn’t acclaim our efforts, he did wish us the very best of luck.
So back to the vines. Most of the Rondo have grapes, small but grapes nevertheless. The Solaris, the white grape that’s supposed to do better in our, ‘at the margins’ climate, has produced hardly any grapes at all. Go figure, just have to put it down to another one of those retirement illogicalities. Looks nice though as you can see below.