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The run up to Christmas...

Paperwork.  As with every business we have paperwork to do throughout the year, from VAT, tax and annual company returns to board and shareholder meeting minutes (that bit is easy when it is just me!) but the run up to Christmas this year had a bit more than usual.

Each year each UK vineyard is required to file a Harvest Declaration with the UK Food Standards Agency giving details of the vineyard, the area in production, the amount of grapes harvested and intended for red wine production and for white wine production, the yield per hectare and where the grapes were sent for winemaking along with the delivery note that accompanied each shipment.  Although this doesn't need to be filed until 15 January, we find it always best to get on top of it as soon as the harvest is over in case there is anything missing (eg a delivery note).  That said, I forgot about it this year and didn't get it filed until 28 November...

We had also hoped to launch Angels 340 for Christmas.  Angels 340 - about which more separately - is a Sparkling Red, called 340 as we only made 340 bottles: it's a proper accompaniment to comfort food so we thought it ideal for Christmas.  To launch a new product, it needs to get certified and that in turn means the submission of bottles and some limited paperwork.  Unfortunately for us, the paperwork all got held up at the certification end by Covid: after a bit of tense chasing and pressing, it finally came through but it was too late for a pre-Christmas launch.  We've enjoyed a couple of bottles over Christmas - so now it's Angels 338, I guess - and we'll launch it properly in January - just to tempt people out of their New Year's resolutions.

And then there is "The Party Barn"...  It has always been called that but we have spent most of 2020 converting the existing barn into something more modern and expanding it out over a courtyard.  We plan to invite members of The All Angels Club and others to tours and tastings next year as well as occasional lunches and dinners: the Party Barn will be integral to that initiative and will also double as my office.  We've tried to make it as "green" as possible using air sourced heat pumps but any work whatsoever needs planning permission and, as Church Farm is listed, approval from the conservation officers.  All this takes time, effort and money - even more so when some friendly local suggested what we were doing was an unlawful change of use: that's when we learnt that Enforcement Officers can turn up unannounced and demand access...  All turned out ok in the end when the Enforcement Officers agreed that we were not in breach of anything and couldn't see any issue in what we proposed but it still took 3 months and over £6,000 in fees to get there.

We also needed a food hygiene rating from the local authority given our dealing with wine as a food product but that was straightforward and the Inspector carried out his survey and gave us the top Food Hygiene Rating of 5 with "no concerns or recommendations".

Then came the excitement of the run up to Christmas with some amazing support nationally but particularly locally with orders coming in right the way till Christmas Eve.  We try to deal with each order the same day - delivering the same day or the day after if local and sending off with ParcelForce also on the same day if not local.  Local restaurants, gastro-pubs and off-licences always get same day as their needs can be very urgent eg. a call from David at The Inn at Home: "Mark, we've had a customer who wants 12 two bottle presentation packs.  Can you get them to me tomorrow?" - Not a problem!  A trip to London to deliver a good number of bottles to 67 Pall Mall and then a few cracking corporate orders in place of their usual Christmas Party.  I have a kind of love / hate relationship with the local postmistress: I love it when she takes the packages and she hates seeing me with bag-loads.  I turned up one morning about 7am and handed over 15 prepaid boxes and realised it wasn't a good day when my cheeery comment about having 40 more to bring in before 10am was met with: "Not here you haven't.  I've no space, I'm too busy and ..."  Fortunately there are two or three other post offices within a few miles of Enborne so I made friends with them instead.

I was happily content when Christmas Eve arrived and when it fell dark I sat outside at the back of Church Farm with Skeena and a large - very large ---- Gin and Tonic.  I don't just drink All Angels!