For some people retirement is about joining things, other people in groups that is. In about June of last year we joined the Mercian Vineyard Association, (MVA) a regional section of the United Kingdom Vineyards Association (UKVA) and currently the one that includes Yorkshire. Ignoring the Marxist line – I wouldn’t want to belong to any club that would have me as a member, we went ahead. We were slightly surprised that they let us join. We felt anything but bona fide vineyard owners but here we were. We even went to a meeting. In Walsall of all places, in an Italian restaurant bizarrely, one Sunday lunch time. We felt quite brave as well as fraudulent. As I’ve written elsewhere I’m not really a joiner, not a ‘belonger’ and there were more reasons than is usually the case not to go to the meeting.

First, it was quite a long way away, although closer than most of the meetings of the MVA. Second, again would we really feel a part of the whole enterprise? To pre-empt the outcome, the answer sadly was – no. The people were pleasant and welcoming enough but these growers were established, had thousands of vines and were doing this professionally as far as we could make out. Inevitably the question – how many vines have you got? – came up (it’s the equivalent of what’s your handicap at a golf club). When we said 400, people were polite (that’s a manageable number, said one without any hint of being patronising) but you knew we weren’t going to be close friends. We were about as likely to ask these people for advice as I would be to ask Eric Clapton for advice about how to play the blues.  It felt not right even though we did have our photos taken for the next magazine.

So we haven’t been to any more meetings but we, as members, do get both The Grape Press journal of the UKVA and The Grapevine, magazine of the MVA – editor . It is rumoured that one of my blogs will appear in the next edition of the latter. I’m flattered and hopeful that it might take a few more people to my blog.

There are interesting articles in the latest issues of both magazines – growing vines in trenches in Scotland in The Grapevine, felt like it might have some relevance for us, climate-wise. In The Grape Press an article entitled The effects of vine spacing, interesting again to us because I have planted our vines closer together than what is generally recommended simply because I thought they might protect each other from the wind. Of course, the closeness might also prohibit the sun’s access and hence ripening. ’The Seven Deadly Sins of Wine Marketing’ need not concern us for a couple of years and maybe, never.

Most important of all, for reasons I’ll come to, the August issues of both the above had the results of the English and Welsh Wine of the Year Competition. You may think we’re getting a bit ahead of ourselves thinking about winning awards and you’d be right. My interest was to see how far north you could be and win a prize. To be brutally honest not very far, Warwickshire, Wolverhampton are not what I, or anybody else, would call northern. Renishaw in Derbyshire is getting closer but we’ve visited this vineyard and the vines are well-protected by stone or brick (can’t remember which) walls. In other words, not at all like our set-up. The most encouraging prize for us was for Ryedale Vineyards which is exactly where it says it is. We bought our vines from Stewart Smith at Ryedale who has been very helpful to us since, so it takes very little effort to say congratulations to Stewart and Elizabeth. And their vineyard is affected by wind and they got a ‘highly commended for their Rondo – a red wine! So that’s a double plus.

So we haven’t rushed off and joined a model-making club or a hiking society or even a book reading group. We’ve joined the MVA, from a distance and there is the beginning of a Yorkshire association so who knows. In the meantime, we’ll keep our fingers crossed that most of our vines survive what ever this coming winter has lined up for us. In the next couple of blogs I’ll write about where it really all started and share some photos of the snow we had last year. This is what retirement means to us.

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