still at the ideas stage

I wrote in my last vineyard / retirement blog that I hadn’t given much thought to the future of our wine. We’ve got this far, keeping a little of our sanity, by taking it one step at a time, not getting too far ahead of ourselves etc. I said I hadn’t thought much about the 800 bottles we might get if things went well. But now I have allowed myself to begin to think about what we might do with the wine if and when (still cautious) we get it. First thing to say is that it looks like being less than 800, more like 500 our winemaker told us. But that’s still fine and still poses the question what are we going to do with it?

My first tentative step towards answering this question was to talk to our two local pubs. I got more or less the response I had expected although the opposite way round to what I had predicted. The first one (who can be gruff) said of course we’d be interested in selling your wine, why would we not, it’s local produce. So that was nice. The landlord, who I had expected to be more enthusiastic, was in fact more cautious. In typical Yorkshire fashion, when I told him we had 500 bottles, his response was – aye well, we’ll see, proof of pudding, lad. But fair enough, we won’t even be selling it unless we like how it tastes.

Our local wine shop, Corks and Crates, actually in Masham, which is about 10 miles from the vineyard, was very enthusiastic. Yes, we’d love to sell your wine, people come in the shop all the time and they first ask for English wine, which we have, and then they ask if we’ve got any local wine. They clearly must be Southerners who have no concept of the climate in these parts, but yes, we’ll sell it and we’ll promote it on our website / newsletter. Bloody hell I thought, this might get out of hand. But I said, that’s great but of course it won’t be ready for another year – I hope.

I also asked them approximately how many bottles of a given wine they might sell in a year. I was trying to get some idea of whether 500 bottles was really too small to be a commercial proposition for a shop like theirs. She said a popular one we might sell 30 or 40 cases of it in a year. A quick mental calculation and I worked out that was between 360 to 480 bottles. So, on that basis, our 500, assuming we got that many and we sold them all to this shop, wasn’t at all an unreasonable number. I made another (mental) note and we left, quite cheered. All we have to do is get it made, bottled, labelled (Mrs Summerhouse has been working on a label design – see above), stored*, distributed and we might make a fiver.

I’m glad we did a little exploration of future markets but this part of the operation is still some way in the future. More immediately, I’ve been trying to buy a couple of oak barrels which should make the wine a little more interesting. Well they would if I could get them. Our wine maker advised contacting White Rose Cooperage at Wetherby to see if they would sell us a couple of barrels. So I rang the number I got from the internet. Is this White Rose Cooperage? No. Oh, Not any more. I’ve closed that business down. Oh. I’m trying to start a new one but I can’t get planning permission to use the building. Oh. I listen while he goes on and then say, is there anything you can do to help me? I explain what I want. I’ll ask around and see what my contacts can do. And there I left it, he didn’t invite any further conversation, TG. Suffice it to say I wasn’t optimistic. I could be using oak shavings after all. Not keen but needs must when the devil drives as they say. Don’t they?

Then this very day, on my members UKVA mailing list, there’s a chap called Sergio in South London offering two ex Pinot Noir, sulphured (whatever that means), barrels for sale**. Price seems good but the location does not because the buyer has to collect. Anyway I fired off a return email asking where he was. Not that it makes a great deal of difference, it’s still 400 (or there abouts) miles roundtrip. So we will see if anything comes of this.

It’s a bit bonkers but positively sane compared to Plan B. Plan A is to replace the approximately 100 vines we’ve lost. We’re probably being a bit daft imagining that because we’ve had a good year this year, all subsequent years will be equally as marvellous, whereas the reality is that it will be another 10 years before we see the like . If I make it that long I’ll be eighty by then and have no interest in anything other than my nappies and bib. Maybe not. So deciding to expand the vineyard back to its original 500 is very likely a silly thing to do. That’s Plan A and we’ve pretty much decided to go ahead with this plan silly though it may be. But compared to Plan B, well it’s like this, briefly, there’s some land for sale further down the dale. At 10,000 an acre it’s not cheap and for this plan to stand any chance they would have to be willing to split it, I do not want all 12 acres for £120K. Nope and it would depend on selling the Heanor house. You’re right it’s madness.***

So back on the farm we (that means my neighbour) are repairing posts and wires, thinking about removing the netting, that netting that we struggled so hard to get it in, now needs taking off and storing somewhere that the mice can’t get at it and then there will be decisions about pruning and fertilising and the planting. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

*If we get any wine I will need a place to store it and this gives me the perfect excuse to have yet another shed. A man can never have too many sheds, at least that’s my view.

**He’d already sold them, back to the drawing board.

***No need to panic, they weren’t prepared to split. Another plan bites the dust.


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