Musings From Mark - Vineyard Work

Musings From Mark - Vineyard Work

One of the things that often surprises people on our Tour & Tastings is learning just how much work goes on to produce our top quality grapes and I’m sure a few of my ex-City colleagues think all I do is sit in a deck chair watching the grapes grow while sipping a glass or two of All Angels.

It is a constant, seven day a week job – and during peak growing season I wish there were more days in the week.  Next season, I’ll try to write a monthly report about what we’ve been up to though you can see some of this in our Instagram posts this year.  Here is a flavour though going through the year:

  • Soil sampling, analysis and supplementing if necessary by spreading compost or other nutrients.
  • Pruning – this is a specialist exercise. It’s not simply snipping off a cane here and there, it is a skilled exercise of identifying the best fruiting canes and a sacrificial cane and cutting off the rest.  A team of 22 take 10 days.
  • Flail mowing the grass and the prunings to get them back into soil, unless diseased in which case remove from the vineyard
  • Frost protection – probably best not to get me started on this as I’ll drone on forever. This year we had little so “all” it involved was clipping on a kilometer or so of infrared (next year about 5 km) and linking it all up to the power supply, putting out the Frostguards each with 4 x 94kg propane tanks, setting up the frost fan and putting out the candles (this year that just involved 36hrs straight work walking 40km carrying 24kg on three occasions), lighting the candles in the middle of the night, putting them out and replacing.  Three times this year, nine times in 2022, twenty-seven times in 2021.  And putting them all away again at the end of the frost season.
  • Tying the canes down (ie tying the canes to the fruiting wires with paper ties) – c. 81,000 ties.
  • Bud rubbing – removing the buds from the base and stem of each of the vines to concentrate growth in the fruiting canes.
  • Crown cleaning – similar to bud rubbing but around the crown of the vine but retaining the buds that might develop into next year’s fruiting canes.
  • Mowing and weeding – constant, every 3 weeks for weeds and as soon as the grass is over 10cm high.
  • Planting replacement vines for the ones that have been damaged the previous year.
  • Wire raising and tucking in the vines so they grow in the right direction and don’t flop over in the wind and tangle with the next row. This has to be done at least twice: a four person team takes about a month to do this.
  • Leaf stripping: removing 70% of the leaves from the east facing side around the grapes and 30% on the west facing side.
  • Trimming – reducing the height of the vines and removing leaves on the sides to produce a “Christmas tree” shape – regularly through the season.
  • Green harvest – removing excess fruit to ensure the right concentration of sugars and acids and ripening.
  • Count lost vines to replace next year, check all trellising, replace and repair wires and posts.
  • Soil analysis.
  • Machinery maintenance.

All this requires planning of course from ensuring we have the right number of paper twists through to fuel requirements and there is inevitably some machinery failure or breakage: two tractor doors smashed by flying flint.

For sure we could cut corners but you can’t make great wine without outstanding grapes.

Anyway, that’s enough.  Back to my deckchair and glass of All Angels…

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