Tuesday, 15 April 2014

A Frosty Scare

We had a close call last night as temperatures on the vineyard fell to -1.7C, resulting in a light frost. We got a text from the weather station at around 5.00am, with a warning that the temperature had fallen below zero, but by the time we got there the sun was rising. Fortunately there shouldn't be too much damage as the vines are only at budburst or first leaf stage at the moment and are fairly resilient up to -1.9C.

The next few weeks are a crucial time for us. As a result of the warm start to the year, the vines are about one month ahead of where they were last year when there was snow on the ground in early April.

The boujies are still our main defence as they warm the vineyard by between 1.5C and 2C. However they are pretty messy and I'm not too happy abot the environmental impact even though we use them infrequently. Next year we will take a look at a new wind machine that Denbies are purchasing from New Zealand which reputably protects 10 acres of vines.

More frost risk tonight so I'll be avoiding too much wine and off to bed early!

Monday, 14 April 2014

Surrey Life Food and Drinks Awards

We are delighted to have been entered for the Food and Drink Producer category of the Surrey Food and Drinks Awards. The award is sponsored by Lythe Hill Hotel, Restaurant and Spa, and last year was won by Hogs Back Brewery.

Surrey has some amazing local food and drink. As well as wine and beer there are producers of beef, cheese, watercress, smoked trout, soft drinks, and even ice cream. Many local people want to support local producers and the Surrey Life Food and Drinks Awards helps to increase awareness of the amazing produce available in Surrey.

Please support the event and vote for us here.

Sunday, 23 March 2014

English Petillant Naturel!

I spent Friday afternoon on the vineyard doing a bit of filming with Monty Waldin, that may lead to a project to produce English Petillant Naturel (or "Pet Nat" for short).

Pet Nat is a naturally sparkling wine that is made with little or no additives. It is bottled part way through the fermentation of the grapes, so that the naturally produced CO2 is absorbed by the wine to give it its fizz. This is different to Champagne, or traditional English bubbly, which goes through a secondary fermentation process with added yeasts and sugars to produce the bubbles.

Pet Nat wines are low in alcohol (often less than 8%) and vary enormously in flavour and fizziness. The winemaker has very little control over the process and has to rely on nature to do its work. The resultant wine will therefore always be different from one vineyard to another and from one year to the next, but many are fresh, exciting and full of character. You'll either love it or hate it but the uncertainty of what it's going to turn out like can be great fun.

Pet Nat is becoming really popular in mainland Europe, particularly in France and Italy. Maybe Albury Organic Vineyard will produce the first English Petillant Naturel!

Sunday, 2 February 2014

Short Back and Sides for our Vines

The same vine before and after pruning
This is the time of the year for pruning. Alex's instructions are to "prune hard and keep it simple". It's important to cut out any diseased wood and to focus on the long term health and efficiency of the vine, which essentially means "less is more". We're therefore being fairly aggressive with our pruning this year, which will hopefully result in better quality fruit, if a little less volume.

Nearly three quarters of the vines have been pruned which means we only have about 5000 left to go! Earlier this week Albury Wine Club Premier Cru members helped by pruning their own vines.

Albury Wine Club Premier Cru members
Once the vines are pruned we spray all the major cuts with VineVax, which is a Trichoderma that helps the wounds heal quicker and prevents the spread of any disease.

Must get to the hairdresser's myself this week for a short back and sides!

Tuesday, 21 January 2014

Please pray for a cold snap!

We vineyard owners are probably in the minority hoping for some colder weather in February. The rain isn't a big problem because all we are doing at this time of year is pruning. But if the unusually high temperatures persist the vines will bud early and will be very susceptible to spring frosts.

Alex (with a little help from me) is well over halfway through pruning the vines. We will leave pruning those in the areas most prone to frost until last, with the hope that it will delay them budding. We will also tie down the fruiting canes as late as possible, which may give them a bit more protection at the bud swell stage.

Come April we will no doubt be out in the vineyard in the middle of the night trying to raise the temperature with our boujies. I've just ordered some more, as well as some Valerian (biodynamic preparation 507) which we will spray on the vines before a frost. Valerian is a liquid made from the flowers of the herb valerian which stimulates the plant's metabolism, effectively warming it up from the inside.

I'm definitely a proper farmer now....always complaining about the weather!

Thursday, 28 November 2013

Albury Wine Club membership for 2014 now open

Following the tremendous success of our new Albury Wine Club, which sold out soon after it's launch, we are pleased to be able to offer some additional memberships for 2014*.
The Albury Wine Club is for wine and food lovers who are interested in English wines, especially those produced by our vineyard!
The club provides an insight into UK viticulture, as well as the inside story on what’s going on at the vineyard. Members will have an early opportunity to buy the wine at discounted prices and be the first to receive invitations to wine and food events being held at the vineyard.
Membership for 2014 is priced at just £60 per person** and includes:
  • Two complimentary bottles of the award winning Silent Pool Rosé, as served on the Royal Barge as part of the Diamond Jubilee celebrations.
  • Priority allocation of our first Albury Estate bubbly, expected to be released for Christmas 2014.
  • 10% discount on all wines purchased direct from the vineyard. 
  • A free of charge members event at the vineyard and a first tasting of the years vintage, prior to its release in June.
  • The opportunity to get involved in the harvest in October/November.
  • An invitation to the harvest party in November (free for all those involved in the harvest). 
  • Regular email updates giving you the inside track on what's happening at the vineyard.

* The membership year runs from 1st May to 30th April (the vineyard year)
**A couple can join for £75 but will only receive one bottle of Silent Pool Rosé each.
Premier Cru Membership
This year we are introducing an exclusive Premier Cru Membership, priced at £480/year, for those of you who would like to get more involved with the vineyard. The following additional benefits are included:
  • The lease of 20 vines, with the option of looking after and harvesting them yourself (with our supervision).
  • A personalised tour of the vineyard, including a tasting of English wines, for up to 6 people.
  • 12 bottles of Silent Pool Rosé and 6 bottles of Albury Estate Sparkling, all signed by the winemaker.
  • A visit to the winery during the production process.
  • A complimentary invitation (for two people) to an exclusive wine and food tasting evening, hosted by a Master of Wine, featuring a range of English wines and delicious artisan food from local producers.
Membership is strictly limited. If you would like to join, please visit our website www.alburyvineyard.com

Sunday, 24 November 2013

Biodynamics - My madness is contagious!

Stained glass window in Firle Church

For some, biodynamics is complete madness but I don't care. Just because many of the principles of biodynamics cannot be explained by science it doesn't mean that they are meaningless... and I'm in good company!

Last week Alex and I buried cow horns, filled with manure from a lactating cow, which over winter will harmonise with the sub-molecular energies of the vineyard. In the Spring we will dig these up and dynamise the contents in water, which will be sprayed on the vineyard to encourage growth and strengthen the vines against disease.

During the next few weeks we will add some herb based biodynamic preparations to our compost pile including Dandelion, Stinging Nettle, Chamomile, Horsetail, Valerian and Yarrow. In December we will start pruning, but not before we consult the Biodynamic calendar to make sure that the moon is in the right phase.

In the winery our biodynamic wine is fermenting happily with only the natural wild yeasts from the vineyard, giving it flavour characteristics with a sense of place or terroir. Even Ulrich, our Silent Pool Rosé winemaker, produced his own Pied de Cuve with our grapes! Benoît, a french student who has been working with us on the vineyard  says "my madness is contagious".

For me, I'm just happy to be in the company of great biodynamic vineyards including Romanée-Conti, Domaine Leflaive and Leroy in Burgundy, Maison Chapoutier in the Rhone, Coulee de Serrant in the Loire, Beaux Freres in Oregon, Reyneke in Stellenbosch, Hensche in Australia and Jean Pierre Fleurie in Champagne.