Staggering Into Summer

After the excitement of our surprise planting last week, it has all been quite a bit calmer in the vineyard this week. With the exception of a couple of showery bumps in the road, the weather is steadily improving as we make our way into June. The Baltic winds have receded, the torrential rain has abated and we are able to stride out into the vineyard in something approximating summer attire. And it’s probably about time that the weather sorted itself out, as my winter socks are now well and truly worn out through excess use and were ceremonially thrown in the bin last week. Oh, and the cold weather isn’t doing the vines much good either.

Wandering out into the vineyards until a couple of weeks ago left us worrying about whether the vines were going to start growing at any point in 2013; one can now tell from the front door that it is the business end of the season. Closer inspection reveals that there are now proper shoots, with actual individual leaves, on all of our varieties. And it is even possible to see little flowers on some of those shoots, which in itself is a big relief after the floods and pestilence (downy mildew) of “Summer” 2012.

You may at this point be wondering why we would be worrying about the awful weather last year affecting the vines this year. It’s because one horrible season is not only able to make a mess of one year, under the correct circumstances it can actually foul up two. As the number of flowers on the shoots are set in the previous season (by a process that I do not really understand) rainfall at the wrong time of year can cause the vine to have a reduced number of flowers (and therefore grapes) in the following year. As most of the shoots still aren’t long enough to have obvious flowers on them for us to look at, we aren’t yet in a position to ascertain how much wine we are likely to be making in 2013*. And as we don’t yet have any handy staff, or children that can count past ten, it probably wouldn’t make much difference if we could count them.

*Whether or not you make lots of wine is obviously weather dependant. If you have millions of flowers all over your super healthy vines, and then it starts raining all over those lovely flowers when they are open, the net result is the same as having no flowers in the first place.

The other big advantage with the weather remaining dry is that we have been able to tidy up the new bit of the vineyard. You may have gathered from last week’s entry that the land wasn’t exactly carefully prepared before we had it filled with vines, so it has been important to do as much of the tidying as possible after they are in. As the planting machine ploughs a furrow into the land (which it then backfills after sticking the vines into the soil), the unprepared land doesn’t cause the vines problems as they establish themselves, but the machine left a bit of a mess in its wake. We had the same problem at the far end of South Field – where the land had been ploughed across the hill and the vines planted up and down it – and we were a little concerned at the time. Naturally these vines are still the most vigorous in the whole estate. I expect that everyone will be planting in a similarly chaotic manner in future. And I will be given some sort of medal or award for brilliantly and carefully devising this system.

The first job was to dig up the vines that had been buried underneath the enormous clumps of soil and grass that were backfilled up to (and on top of) the planted vines. This is admittedly a small hitch with my brilliant vine establishment system, but you can easily find most of the vines beneath said clumps of grass and replace any with spare vines while crossing your fingers and hoping that two don’t grow out of the same hole. Once you have found your vines, it is essential to protect them. You may have noticed that the lump of wax placed by the nursery onto the top part of the vines is no barrier to the millions of rabbits that want nothing more than to eat them. Once the canes are in and the vine guards are on, it’s time to get those cable ties through the guards, or I will be chasing them all over the vineyard ad nauseam and complaining about having to do it even more ad nauseam. Then a quick whizz over the powder dry top soil with the power harrow and the land looks like it was properly prepared and no one will ever know about my brilliant planting scheme.

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