Wednesday, 11 April 2018

Good riddance to Triomphe

1 vine out, 130 to go.
The decision to grub up our 131 twenty-five year old Triomphe d'Alsace vines made itself after the 2017 (non) vintage.

job done
There had been neither the time nor frankly the inclination to do any summer pruning or eventually to pick until it was too late. The day we decided to harvest, we discovered the pheasants had got there first and stripped the vines to the last grape. Already doubtful of making anything useful other than grape juice (strangely not bad) or vinegar (good) it just became clear that ripping these beasts out was the thing to do.

not an actual representation but along the right lines
Our pheasant population had burgeoned but what is the point of growing grapes to feed them especially as we had no opportunity or wish to bag them for our own consumption.

Valentin Blattner
Also, we had an idea of what we might like to plant in their place following our visit to Valentin Blattner, private grape breeder of Soyhieres, Switzerland in March 2017.

Paul and Sam
Thanks to the invaluable advice of Paul Troop and Sam Doncaster we had found Blattner's Cabernet Noir via Annett Rosenberger of Rebschule Freytag in Germany.

Blattner Cabernet Noir
Originally we had thought of Cabernet Jura (also from Blattner) but Cab. Noir ripens much earlier (around the same time as Rondo in the UK - that is in mid-September) and a tasting of Cabernet Noir from the  Domaine de la Colombette in the Languedoc and Blattner's own Cabernet Jura ('Les Mergats') persuaded us that Cabernet Noir was no less good.

Cabernet Noir from the Languedoc
Image result for les mergats cabernet jura
Blattner's own Cabernet Jura

You read about grubbing up vines quite frequently but believe us, it is not a simple business if you don't have expensive dedicated equipment. Also, very few people in the UK have experience of grubbing up vines due to the youth of modern vinegrowing in this country.

our Kubota for the day
a change of tyres
In the end we found that the cheapest wasy of doing it was to hire a Kubota 21hp tractor with chevron tyres one winter's day and pull the vines up with a rope of kinds. This is what is called 'arrachage' (tearing out) in France. The alternative would have been to use a digger but our skills stopped well short of that.

£20,000 of stump grinding equipment hopefully does the job.
Pulling up the Triomphe vines left rather a lot of roots behind so in the end we had to call in profesional stump grinders whose Stakhanovite activity zapped the roots in the 131 holes where the vines had been. No amount of grinding will remove all the roots of course. For that we would have had to remove the trellising and deep plough the whole site but we are too poor and lazy to do that.

Holes have been dug mainly between the spots the old vines occupied.

Our advice from Derek Pritchard of Dunkery Vineyard, Wooton Courtnay (who supplies us with vines and equipment) was 'I would replant this year, a year of one's life is a long time !'

Cabaret Noir? Someone having a laugh perhaps?
So 144 Cabernet Noir vines duly arrived from Rebschule Freytag and are now tucked up, hopefully safely in our small patch. Whether they will thrive (Derek says new vines don't like decaying vine roots and there are certainly still some present) is another matter but the main thing is we are now a Triomphe-free zone.

                                                            ready for planting

7.50pm. Cabernet Noir safely tucked up.
Note: We've put our 141 Bacchus vines on notice this year, such is our enthusiasm for change. Bacchus is high maintenance (involving too many chemicals) and when we make it, the wine is nothing special. The search is on for a better, resistant variety. Meanwhile, we have been filling some holes with more Solaris, an obliging variety which makes good wine in the UK as its propensity to produce what Jancis Robinson MW calls 'tooth-rottingly high sugar levels' is mitigated in our climate.

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