Sunday, 2 April 2017

This year's fun in the vineyard

Spring wasn't in the air on the dull winter's day we snapped this new vineyard at Fairmile, Henley-on-Thames but it provided the inspiration for us finally to do a bit of rotavating in an attempt to stimulate growth in our sickly vines nearby. The owner and winemaker Jan Mirkowski generously gave us the names of his contractors and consultants.

We hired a rotavator for a day and managed to make a bit of an impression.

Also during the winter we had been in correspondance with Sunnybank Nurseries of Herefordshire concerning this year's cuttings. Last year we had had about 25% success and planted

L'Acadie Blanc
Baco Noir
Saperavi Severny

We'll see how many have made it to this year. In 2015, we had 100% failure, so even this small rate of success in 2016 was progress. On that basis, we ordered the following for 2017;

From Sunnybank Nurseries;

L'Acadie Blanc 
Gelber Muskateller 
Pinot Blanc 
Baco Noir 
Cabernet Cortis
Cot Precoce de Tours 
Gagarin Blue
Muscat Bleu 
Petit Rouge 
St. Laurent 
Saperavi Severny 

We hatched a cunning plan however. We would give the majority to a local Plant Nursery who we are sure will do better than us. 

Here is Toby with his allocation. The remainder we would plant ourselves.

We had also had an interesting correspondance with the famous Vassal Collection near Montpellier having discovered you can buy cuttings from them. We selected 10 varieties which we were going to add to the home potting effort.

Through a misunderstanding we were expecting one each of the following whereas Vassal kindly sent between 7 and 13 of each. 

From INRA, Domaine de Vassal (all Red)

Jurancon Noir 
Krasnostop Zolotovsky
Pineau d’Aunis
Pollera Nera

This necessitated some fancy last minute footwork but we managed to pot every one of them the day after receipt.

It's true in some cases 5 to a pot is not ideal but it is possible. We'll see.

off with his head!
 All this time we had been pruning hard and no harder than in our Triomphe plot. We had left these vines  pruning in summer only for a couple of years and they had gone mad. A very helpful person from a Vineyard consulting company called Vine Care Ltd had advised us to go hard at these vines, removing the crowns. We bought a little electric chainsaw and enjoyed ourselves hugely decapitating these hateful monsters. We have no doubt they will come back more brutally than ever. Will the fruit quality be improved? This is probably the last stage on the road to grubbing them up. Vine Care have also helped us find chemicals for spraying our Bacchus and now Goldriesling against Powdery and Downy Mildew this year.

We've now finished the pruning (the above photo doesn't show the final result). All this is fun even if results disappoint. We know practically none of the varieties we are trying to grow from cuttings will ever bear ripe fruit. Our interest is to see simply what will grow in our climate, what will be vigorous and what not. So far from last year we can tell L'Acadie Blanc, Baco Noir and Saperavi Severny appear to have vigour. 

We'll keep you posted.

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