Diary of an English Vineyard


Setting The Scene - 13/01/2011

We decided to plant a vineyard on a summer’s day in 2003.

Gerard and I were in the daisy-dusted meadow on the south-facing slope below our High Weald home. We were admiring the rich carpet of butter-cups, moon-daisies and sneezeweed (prettier than it sounds) waving gently amongst the grasses. The rams had gone, victims of foot-and-mouth precautions, and the land was idle.

I was idle.

This displeased my husband.

With a gentle smile, he suggested that a vineyard would be a good idea. Good use of the land; an enjoyable job for me.

“OK,” I said, “but I know nothing about vines”.

“You can learn,” he replied.  “You’re good at growing things.”

So off I went to Plumpton College to learn all about it.

And learn I did – I came back hooked. Dinner waited whilst assignments were completed. The trashy novel was replaced with viticulture text books. We planted a season later, me one page ahead at any time. The vines grew despite us, mistakes made and then resolved – my very first pass with the mower hitched behind the tractor took out two of the trellis poles. Happily, no one was there to hear me swear.

So why did we do it?

English sparkling wine was earning recognition. We liked the idea of making a really good, lift-your-spirits joyous sparkling rosé wine. A wine that captures the bluebell woods, the first spring primroses, the cuckoo-call in summer and the broad oak leaves of August: redcurrants and cherry orchards on the nose, and a smile on the lips.

I think we’re getting there.

We have two harvests under our belts. We have wines maturing gently in cellar, tank and barrel. And now it’s time to re-start the vineyard work to bring the grapes to a sweet harvest once more.

Our vineyard year starts with pruning the vines, channeling their energy to produce the best fruit possible…