21 of them on 3 vines. OK 3 out of 400 isn’t a lot but we hadn’t expected any, so… Allan (another member of our fledgling Yorkshire Vineyard association and a retired person like me) had grapes on his vines and we had planted at the same time but although his vineyard is nearish to ours their location and everything else could not be more different so quite honestly we didn’t think his grapes set any precedent for ours. That didn’t stop me being deeply, deeply envious. If I were so inclined I could be deeply envious of his set up generally. It’s so neat, metal posts, straight rows, flat ground, neatly cut grass, no weeds, tautly strung proper wire. Everything looked so immaculate and them when we looked at ours as you can perhaps see in these photos (see end photo) it just made me laugh. We have none of the above. Chalk and cheese doesn’t even begin to cover it.
But enough of this envy business. The only reason we realised we had grapes at all was because we had to lift and, in some cases, cut with a Stanley knife, the tubes in order to strip the leaves in the tubes. Last year we hadn’t done this and the leaves had turned mouldy and they were staring to infect the vines with a kind of fungus. This was annoying as the one thing we thought the inordinate amount of wind we have, ‘bought’ us was freedom from various mildews. But here it was and it was due to our carelessness. So this year qwe wanted to make sure we removed all the leaves in the tubes. A daunting task and one for which we enlisted daughter and partner. Of course there were the dogs to look after even or even especially here so only three of us could work at the same time. But that’s another story.
So it was in the removal of the tubes one way or another that revealed the grapes, all on the Rondo variety, so black grapes and of a decent size, which was nice because it mean they took a better photo. I suppose technically we should have removed them at an earlier stage (a couple of them had already started to go mouldy even this cheered me, spatlese I thought. Certainly the vines on which we found the grapes weren’t by any means the most vigorous. So maybe it was, as is often the case, you can have leaves and growth or fruit. Anyway we didn’t see them until now and finding them at this point was just, well, jolly exciting.
I had already decided I would plant another 50 or 100 (can’t decide which – 100 would bring our total to 500 which would be enough – could you make a 1000 bottles with this?) Steady boy, 21 grapes does not a vintage make. But I have asked my farmer neighbour to plough a bit more of our field and get the necessary posts and wire to set up more rows. I’ll let you know how that goes but at this stage I’m planning on 50 Seyval Blanc (so we can make a sparkling rose) and 50 Pinot Noir, which is completely impractical where we are but hey, we’ve got grapes haven’t we! And, I love pinot.
The other thing we discovered that we didn’t realise we’ve got apart from nettles that are responding well to whatever I’m doing to the soil, is rats. Well, one dead one without a head anyway. My daughter who, you will remember, is helping us, found it. She, a city girl through and through, was unimpressed. In fact she ran round screaming, ‘dead rat, dead, rat’ etc. followed by ‘it’s got no head, it’s got no head’ and so on. She’d already found a rabbit skeleton and this had required therapy, but this was worse). It just seemed to me that my concept of a wildlife park which we could fall back on if the vineyard concept didn’t fly, was enhanced by this discovery, that’s rabbits, moles, mice, birds, sheep, possibly deer, (and now dogs, ours of course) and as a bonus rats. Who says we are not blessed by God’s incredible bounty.
You get the occasional clue to my daughter’s lack of savoir faire in the country by her attitude to working on the vines. I had provided her with a handful of plastic ties and told her to use them to secure the vines to the horizontal wire. String has proved completely bloody useless in tying the canes to the wire, it rots within an hour of being tired, (sorry, tied). They’re particularly useless at tying the cane to the top wire and keeping said cane upright. The wind sees it as a challenge to blow the canes and hence the vines horizontal and frankly the string, after a very short time, is either complicit or at least neutral in this event – do what you like, I’m not bothered they don’t pay me enough).
Back to the daughter. Ask when you want more I said. After quite a long time I wondered why she wasn’t asking for more. She said she wasn’t using them on all the vines only, and I quote, on the ‘chosen ones’. When I made the mistake of questioning her logic she replied that the ties (which admittedly are non-reusable and therefore quite expensive – this is Yorkshire after all) were not to be used lightly with any old vine, only her ‘chosen ones’. She addressed the ‘chosen ones’ as such. God knows how this made the rest of them feel. Hmm. Her partner was born and brought up in a, now extinct, mining village and played rugby league to a good standard, so he’s considerably more robust, thanks be to God. He finished off when the rest of us for a variety of reasons (some good, some not) had lost interest.
So there we have it, country meets city, nature red (oblique reference to grapes) in tooth and claw and we have grapes.
Overgrown vineyard with dogs