I thought I would write a quick summary of this year for us and a few other bits and bobs. It’s been a year half in work and half in retirement. The vineyard was always designed as a retirement project so all is going well in that planning sense.

I will finish this year’s vineyard blogs by referring to The Wine Society News. I’ve been a member of The Wine Society for about 30 years and, although I spread my wine buying around from Aldi, Majestic, local wine shops etc, I still buy on a semi regular basis from the society. They haven’t tended to sell much from English vineyards in the past but this is changing.

The front page of their December newsheet Society News has the headlines 2013 looking good for UK vineyards. The article has a lovely picture of a neat, serene even, vineyard – Ridgeview in The Downs. I have to say any resemblance to our vineyard is purely coincidental. The weather is predictably the main focus of the article -‘warm temperatures continued well into October’, ‘the long winter (of 2012/13) was actually a benefit to the vines as it delayed bud-burst and lessened the period we were at risk from frost’ said Mardi Roberts of Ridgeview. I have to say when May arrived for us without any sight of a bud I began to fear the worst. There’s late and there’s cancelled. Ye of little faith.

The article concludes ‘ All in all, 2013 looks very promising for English wine and we look forward to tasting the first of these when they arrive next summer’. I found this a slight ‘damning with faint praise’. We know the harvest has been excellent, ‘promising’ / ‘look forward to tasting’ suggests that there is still the possibility of English vintners screwing up the quality of the wine in the wine-making process. But maybe that’s just me, just my paranoia.

But that’s not something for us to worry about just yet. We have had a good year in our own, modest way. With the good weather, even up the dale where we are, the vines have grown well as I wrote earlier, and we have our own harvest. Humble, but, if large oak trees grow from tiny acorns, well who knows. What do you say? you’ll be dead before then. Yep, fair point. But our vines have grown well, we’ve lost a few along the way and, as we brace ourselves for yet another storm of the century, we hope for the best on our exposed site through this coming winter. In my next blog I will publish a couple of photos of the snow we had last year and the effect it had on my vines and my shed.

We went up to the vineyard this weekend. I’d bought a spade and more plastic ties at the excellent Todds in Summerbridge, the shop that, in the words of Garrison Keillor, if it doesn’t sell it, you probably don’t need it. I had the vague intention of leveling out some of the newly ploughed (ready for next year’s additional planting) rows and tying up more canes. But it was so bloody cold that we went inside, lit a fire and read the papers. The pups were happy enough to race round outside. When I did venture out, I went to the outside  building and did a bit of tidying up. That’s a manly enough thing to do when it’s cold outside. In the process of tidying I found hundreds and hundreds of plastic ties. They must have come with the canes. As I said before I don’t remember ordering them, but there they were laughing at the wasted money (we don’t like wasting money in Yorkshire) I had squandered on buying new ties when I had literally hundreds in my outhouse. As a token gesture I used two of them (another 1000 to go) before retiring inside.

Finally, I’d like you to know that my fame has been cemented in the dale. One of the residents phoned me the other day to ask if I would be prepared to organise a wine tasting. Apparently my farmer neighbour, the one who helps me, had recommended me as a wine expert to a chap who wanted to organise a wine tasting evening in February when ‘it’s a bit miserable up here’. I’ve drunk plenty of wine in my time but never been regarded as an expert capable of planning a wine tasting evening. It’s  a bit scary really but I couldn’t say no and I was secretly flattered and I might get a blog out of it. I’ve cut and pasted my email response below to his request. If any of my readers have any thoughts I would be delighted, to say the least, to receive them. My email said :

We need to make it fun as well as challenging but not too difficult, not for experts, just ‘normal’ people. I suggest we have about 10 rounds with a prize at the end for best score perhaps the quiz could start easy and get a bit more difficult. We can make them multiple choice which is easier or just straight answers.

1. We could start with a blindfold test – a red, a white and a rose, people guess which is which (they’re all the same temperature so no clues there.

2. A Chardonnay and a Sauvignon Blanc , which is which – this is fairly easy.

3. A Beaujolais and a Shiraz (they’re very different so again easy)

4. A Gewurtztraminer – an unusual wine for most people, a cheap one and a more expensive one – which is which?

5. Same grape different country – say a Sauvignon Blanc from France and one from New Zealand

6. A Cote du Rhone and another red (the Cote du Rhone usually has a peppery taste – can they spot it?

7. A Riesling and something else, can they spot the petrol taste?

8. Guess the country – white from say Australia, Chile, France

9. Guess the country – red from Italy, Germany etc

10. A cheap Prosecco and a better sparkling wine, can people  tell which is which?

So the things we agree to when we are retired and have all this time on our hands.

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