As it has been two years since the last proper harvest, I’d forgotten about the little break that we have in the middle of it, and it’s making everything seem a bit weird here. After six months doing battle with the vineyard and having a list of jobs that is never shorter than epic, everything comes to a grinding halt when we aren’t allowed to spray the vines any more and the weeds stop growing. Which in turn makes us feel like we should be doing something useful instead of eyeing up the six months worth of DIY that has been backing up over the growing season. I’m that discombobulated at the moment that I even made the mistake of asking Lucy what I should be doing the other day and she turned to look ominously at the sort of pile of paperwork that one sees on those reality hoarder television shows. Fortunately I was able to run out of the door before she could indicate what she would like me to do with it. I’m currently strimming under the vines in the far field, even though it isn’t absolutely desperate, and cutting the grass down the rows with the mower to ensure easy passage for our pickers. I assume that they will be as appreciative of this as they are unpaid.
This annual break confirms to me that it is high time that we made our lives more troublesome by having more vines planted at the back of what we call South Field, in a lump of land that should accommodate 4 – 5,000 vines. It is sort of north and south west facing, so we should be able to ripen most of the German varieties nicely. And if we picked the right varieties, we should be able to find something that would ripen between between the two existing patches and therefore have a full and rewarding October, filled with good times and chummy picker camaraderie. Either that will happen, or they will all ripen at exactly the same time and our pickers will mutiny because we are working them too hard. I’m all for risking it, but Lucy seems less recklessly optimistic.
The mid harvest break is extra long this year as we took the Siegerrebe off a fortnight ago and decided to keep going through the rest of the German patch after looking at the decidedly soggy weather forecast. This wasn’t such a problem as we were planning to harvest the Bacchus and Schonberger later that week, doing so immediately ensured that it was still clean and free from mould. The Corbinian blend is now fermenting nicely and it should have just about run out of sugar to ferment by the time that you are reading this, ready for it to be removed from the yeast gunge at the bottom of the tank, into another (clean) tank and will be something approximating wine. Exciting, no?
The picking that we have done so far has gone pretty well. We had some local friends over to help us pick the Siegerrebe and we were able to power through that in a couple of hours in mostly dry conditions. Genius that I am, I didn’t decide to pick the rest of the German patch until we had sent them on their way, so I was obliged to pick the balance of it alone. By that time virtually all of the wasps had died from the colder weather or been helped on their way by our insecticide. It wasn’t until I picked a bunch with a hornet attached to it that it occurred to me that I should be paying more attention and that our gut feeling that it was time to pick was probably the right one (hornets appear to be astonishingly good grape eaters). The best bit about picking German patch (which is adjacent to the house) is that I don’t have to look out of the window every five minutes at it to see if the Magpies have turned vegetarian and we can be relaxed about at least part of the vineyard until next season.
What’s left then? We still have to pick all of the grapes in South Field – what appears to have lots of super ripe Pinot Noir and some nicely ripening Chardonnay – and the balance of grapes in West Field – a smallish amount of nicely ripe Pinot Noir/Meunier and Chardonnay on the vines that obstinately remain weak in spite of our rigorous fertilising program this year. Happily, we will be armed with a group of experienced pickers next week for a whole week, so should have the lot off in short order. And, as mother (who is already ensconced here for moral support and planning purposes) can’t seem to accept that we will ever get any grapes off the vines ever again after last year, she has a long list of improvements that need doing around the place while we have a willing workforce. So next time we meet, we’ll either be delighted with our bumper harvest or with our immaculate and improved estate; whatever the case, things are looking good.