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CLOSED SEASON WORK – or what do we do after harvest?

Part 1 – The Vineyards


It’s true that vineyard activity slows down a bit once the harvest is in but it doesn’t stop completely and the time not spent in the vineyard is quickly taken up in other ways.

For sure, after the grapes are pressed and we’ve had a preliminary chat about the plans for the wine that will come from those pressings, I typically spend a few days doing not a lot: catching up on sleep and getting back into a more frequent gym and exercise routine.  But the daily vineyards walks with Skeena (at least three or four each day) soon lead to a feeling of guilt about what needs to be done and even Skeena’s slipping into low shouldered hunting mode as she scents partridge or pheasant in the vineyard doesn’t distract for long. 

Hawk kites need to be taken down and their long metal posts stored, “angry bird” whirling ball bird scarers need to be tucked away in the vineyard buildings (leave it till after the first high wind and they could be anywhere – we even retrieved one from a fishery almost half a mile away) and the nets need to be taken down, rolled carefully and stored (each one is about 200m long).

Then there are the waspinators to collect in, the wasp traps cleaned and stored and the trail cameras cleaned, batteries removed and boxed.

Not every vine survives each year so we count the ones we need to replace or the gaps we’ve just identified and source replacements for planting the following season.  Understandably some of the trellising gets knocked by machinery during the year and this needs to be sorted: replacing trellising if necessary and more usually replacing broken fruiting wires / anchors.

All equipment is serviced, cleaned and even painted if necessary.  New kit is considered and orders placed (this year, in addition to a new tractor, we plan on getting a frost buster tow and blow machine, new bougies, an intervine weeder, a topper for the new vineyard, new fuel storage tanks and a new agricultural building at Holtwood to name but a few items).  We have already installed new weather stations in the new vineyard and are beginning to learn where the cold pockets are and the differences in temperature between that and the existing vineyards.

Soil samples were taken in November and analyses conducted so we can see where we need to add supplements.  We will do this again in early spring to see if more is needed.  Tree work needs to be carried out in some parts of the vineyard, especially in the Church vineyard this year.   Fences too.

Holtwood is new this year (we planted in May) and we needed to harrow again in October and seed the headlands with grass and between the rows of vines with pollinators: it is encouraging to see them coming through already.

We won’t prune till early next year.  As to when, that will be a decision to be discussed: the annual recap and plan for the next season with the team is one of the most important meetings of the year.

All this takes time.  In Part 2, I’ll chat about what else needs to be done, from regulatory to sales.