Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Coulure and Milllerandage (Hen and Chicken)



If the weather is bad during flowering it can effect pollination and fruit set. This can result in bunches with small and large grapes, a condition known as  Millerandage which is often called "Hen and Chicken". The big berries have been fertilised and have pips and sugar but the little berries are sour and seedless. Poor pollination can also result in Coulure, where large sections or even complete sets of flowers fail to produce fruit.

This year our Seyval have suffered and as a result yields may be lower than expected. However as we were planning to take off some of the bunches anyway, so that the young vines don't get to stressed, this might not be too bad news.

Interestingly the Pinot Noir and the Pinot Meunier have much better formed bunches, probably because they flowered slightly earlier when the weather was a bit better.

As flowering generally occurs during Wimbledon fortnight, the weather during the tennis is often a good indicator of potential yields for English vineyards. If the weather is good it is normally a forecast of bumper yields. If it rains throughout I probably won't be in the best of moods!

Monday, 25 July 2011

A Bird of Prey to Keep the Snackers at Bay!

Birds can be a big nuisance in the vineyard, especially as the fruit begins to ripen when some like nothing more to snack on the grapes. This is particularly worrying for us as we are close to a landfill site which is often covered in scavenging birds.

Vineyard managers use a variety of techniques to try and protect the fruit, such as hanging shiny CD's on the trellising, automatic firecrackers, rockets, electronic audio bird repellers and of course netting.

One of the most effective deterrents is a bird of prey. However, as we don't have a local falconry, we've invested in the next best thing which is a kite in the shape of a hawk which swoops, dives and climbs in the wind just like a real hawk. It is attached to a 25m flying line with a 13m kite pole and should protect 3 to 4 acres of vineyard. We have also bought a Vigilante Helikite which is a shiny balloon filled with helium which flies up to 60m high and theoretically will scare birds off the whole of the vineyard. Both these products can be purchased from Allsopp Helikites

So far the Hawk Kite seems to be flying well; time will tell how effective it is keeping the birds away. Later this week we will try out the Helikite. Hopefully the birds in Albury will decide it's safer to stay on the landfill.

Monday, 18 July 2011

English Rosé Tasting at the Vineyard

Now that we are nearing our first harvest we need to start thinking about the style of still rosé wine we would like to produce. Hopefully we will get some good quality fruit and we will have something to drink next year.

To help form our views, a group of us met at the vineyard last week to taste some of the best English rosé wines, including samples from Camel Valley, Chapel Down, Hush Heath, Denbies, Stanlake Park, Three Choirs, Brightwell, Meopham and Gusbourne. The tasting was blind and lead by Stephen Skelton MW. Ulrich Hoffman, who will be making our still rosé, was also there amongst a number of friends and local restaurant owners.

The runaway winner was the Camel Valley which they describe as a light dry rosé with intense strawberry flavours. It is made from 67% Pinot Noir and 33% Dornfelder.

Our rosé will also be made from Pinot Noir but with Seyval instead of the Dornfelder. We will decide the percentage mix and even what rows to use in 4-5 weeks time when we will be better able to judge the quality of fruit.

Saturday, 16 July 2011

Engagement at the Vineyard

Olivia and Jon get engaged at the vineyard

The vineyard has looked really beautiful recently with a swathe of poppies adding incredible colour to the landscape.

A local wedding photographer, Zoe Collyer phoned me recently requesting access to the vineyard so that she could take some engagement photographs of Olivier and Jon who are getting married this September and of course I was happy to oblige.

Sadly the poppies have now mostly gone. However maybe another potential revenue stream for the future!