In scenes that were horribly reminiscent of last summer, I was stood in the vineyard attached to a sprayer shaking my fist at the sky and cursing the weather forecasters* for their complete and total ineptitude. It has been about a year since I’ve spent the morning running up and down hills with my sprayer, only to have my efforts wiped out (and the chemicals washed off the vines) by a lot of rain that is supposed to be falling elsewhere. While we aren’t exactly happy that spraying is taking about twice as long as it might (or that those crafty meteorologists keep changing their historical forecasts after the rain has actually started falling in scenes horribly redolent of the Josef Stalin regime), the occasional spot of rain is helping to remind us just how lucky we have been with the weather this year.
*Specifically via the medium of the otherwise excellent, but factually inaccurate Met Office weather application. Fortunately I was stood in the middle of a field with an audience of precisely two dogs and one buzzard, as shouting at your mobile phone for not making the sun stay out isn’t exactly the image that I wish to project to my adoring Devonian public.
Walking to the vineyard through the part of the land that homes the grass that is currently cut to feed our neighbour’s cows, it’s obvious that after its first cut at the end of June it still hasn’t seen much rain. It’s undeniably yellow, as is the rest of the valley. I haven’t bumped into any of the local cattle farmers recently, but I suspect that our delight in the dry weather has correspondingly left them all a little depressed at the lack of grass and therefore winter feed. Presumably they will all be complaining about being poverty stricken at the end of the season. Sound familiar? We, however, are absolutely delighted by the lack of grass: that tractor and mower have only been out for a single tour of duty this year and it’s still perfectly navigable in a pair of sandals. The strimmer also remains fairly idle, and when you consider that we are mostly on the other side of the weed growing season, it doesn’t look like either of them are likely to see much more action until next year.
Amongst the vines it’s the same story. From start to finish the entire flowering period has been wall to wall sunshine, with just a touch of non-threatening fluffy white cloud around the edges. It couldn’t have been better. Particularly given that we spent most of June watching and waiting for the vines to start flowering, absolutely convinced that it would start raining the very moment that they did. And the result is – as far as we can tell – the best fruit set to date. There are small bunches of grapes all over everything, especially on the Pinot Noir whose performance we have been worrying about in South Field, so we should be all set for a bumper(ish) harvest. And given that the wasps remain mostly – we saw our first one at the vineyard yesterday – absent, we might even be able to make something from our sickly and difficult to maintain German varieties for the first time in three years. I know! My cup runneth over; almost certainly with delicate and fruity German style wine.
The Pinot Noir in South Field was of particular concern as it was otherwise entirely healthy and happy, but had the unforgivable habit of not producing many grapes. Having discussed our problem with some people who have the same clone* of Pinot Noir, we were alarmed to hear that they have experienced the same problem, some of them had gone so far as to rip them up and replace them with another type of Pinot Noir. The type that we had chosen has historically been selected by French nursery type people for excellent quality and reasonable yields, and this description has been proven pretty much half right (we have been very happy with the excellent quality of both bunches of grapes from them thus far). Happily it appears that we won’t have to dig them all up after all. So I can stop pretending that we haven’t taken them out thus far for some reason other than that I have literally no idea how to remove a whacking great vine from a field armed with only a spade and a pair of secateurs.
*In case you aren’t already aware, when you buy vines from the nursery you are given a choice of variety (Pinot Noir, Chardonnay etc.) and a clone number. The clones are chosen from vines that have performed well in the past, allowing you to chose vines that crop particularly heavily, are of particularly good quality or ripen early or so on. When they arrive, you are presented with boxes and boxes of genetically identical plants that forget that they are all clones the second that you put them in the ground and (infuriatingly) start behaving completely differently from their neighbours.