various home-made wines

It’s about the time to provide fans of all things viticultural with an update on our Trapping Hill vineyard. A month ago I was bemoaning the lack of grapes courtesy of our feathered ‘friends’. Well I took what we had and made our wine. Too soon to judge the results of course. Shortly after picking what was left of the grapes in our North Yorkshire vineyard we moved on to our Derbyshire vineyard I think I’ve written about this before but, in case you’ve forgotten or, God or whoever forbid, I’ve forgotten to write, let me explain. I calculate that about 70 or 80 years ago my grandfather planted a vine in the greenhouse he had built. Clever man my grandfather (on my mother’s side) he was an engineer and was offered a job in South Africa but turned it down because he didn’t like the apartheid regime, so clever and it seems principled.

Anyway the point is as this is a vineyard blog is that this vine (I think it might be called Black Homburg but then again maybe I just imagined this name) is still, after all these years, producing grapes. Quite remarkable given that, for the last twenty years or maybe more, it has had absolutely no care and attention, no pruning, feeding, de-suckering etc that our pampered vines in North Yorkshire have come to expect as their divine right. As I said the vine started life cosseted in the greenhouse but it certainly isn’t now nor has it been for many years on account of the greenhouse having largely fallen down around it. Now it pokes through the few remaining panes of glass.

The point is that we (my neighbour and I, in fact my neighbour might say he picked them as he went up the ladder while I bravely held it at the bottom) picked the nice looking bunches from this elderly, much-abused vine. We brought them up the M1 to our Leeds home and there I made wine from them as I had a couple of weeks earlier from our North Yorkshire vines. It gives me immense pleasure to tell people we have two vineyards a Northerly one and a Southern one. Not strictly accurate but, if it allows me to put the words pleasure and vineyard in the same sentence, then it’s alright by me. You will see from the photo above that it’s a wine of a very different hue, it’s the light- coloured, pinky one in the middle.

So for all vineyards commercial and otherwise it’s wine-making time. Perhaps this busy time of year explains why we haven’t heard from our ‘colleagues’ in other Yorkshire vineyards about getting together for it was this time last year when a meeting of this kind took place and we were invited to it. I’m always a bit surprised we get asked to what is predominantly a commercial vineyard get-together but perhaps now we haven’t been asked, that or there simply hasn’t been one this year. If so I’m not sure why this would be the case unless they’ve all had such terrible year’s crop-wise that they don’t want to share their failures.

Certainly if my emails from the UKVA asking for members to provide data about their ‘yield’ alongside the acreage of the vineyard, types of vines and when they harvested, are anything to go by, date is tight. From the email it seemed like a number of vineyards were holding back on the data but perhaps that’s just my suspicious mind and they were simply a bit slow.

It’s hard to keep track of all the information requests that run through the threads on the website. There have been in no particular order – the viability of maritime locations (good apparently), new diseases (something called Xylella Fastidiosa, sounds very deadly), training course locations (Plumpton College, down in Devon is not popular as a location for vineyards in the South West, they should try travelling from Yorkshire); job opportunities, seeking and being offered, wine that one vineyard had made for another but then not needed because the crop was better than expected so the vineyard that had made the wine was trying to sell it on for £2 something a litre, not sure whether it sold at that price; second-hand neck freezer required for sparkling wine (I’d be tempted if we had grapes); when to pay your tax (not something we need to worry about); winter pruning and so on. An intriguing one for me was wine kept under water in the sea to age the wine and make it more interesting, this could be very useful for us if they invented some way of making wine from grapes grown under rain water.

So plenty going off at this time of year. For us events are a little more modest. Number one son, who’s a social animal, we would never have made the contact because I rarely speak to our neighbours, discovered an Australian wine-maker who lived near him in Perth, Western Australia not Scotland. Now he lives literally next door (or does for a short while longer, they’re kicking him and his wife out of the house he’s renting next door and selling the house, selfish or what?) to us in Leeds and he’s offered to share his expertise with us now he knows we have a vineyard. If you believed in signs and portents you might say he’s been put next to us to help us improve our fortunes in the grape-growing / wine-making business. Strange coincidence I think you will agree, surely meant to be.

We were up at the vineyard on Monday, Mrs Summerhouse was cleaning our de-stalking machine and I was returning, to the roughly vertical, all the vines that had blown over. You would think that with the leaves off the vines their aero-dynamic properties would alter, i.e. they would be less likely to be blown over by the wind, but not so. It’s tedious work and the only positive is that those vines that we replaced the plastic tubes with wire-netting that allows the wind to pass through, are mostly more upright. A lesson for the future perhaps but then it’s a lesson among so many. We’ve made so many mistakes but right there, in line with one of my key retirement values, it’s a learning experience. Yes indeedy.

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