Spring-ing into life!
By Fiona Mounsey
We have received many requests since we started our Pembrokeshire vineyard venture to do a blog and finally (and with some help and advice from Wine Cellar Door!) - here goes!
The Velfrey Vineyard crew, including three dogs, has just returned from a short (but truly wonderful) trip to the Isle of Wight. Now - the dogs have barely been in the car over this last year - so as you can imagine, they think they've been on a huge adventure which probably deserves a blog post in its own right!
When we left last Friday, it felt like Winter. Raining in sheets, cold and blowing a hooley! The vines (quite sensibly) were still in fairly early bud burst and, along with the house martins and the swallows, they must have been wondering what on earth was going on with this weather!
But on our return on Tuesday, the situation could not have been more different! We were met with a beautiful, big, blue Pembrokeshire sky, real warm sunshine and not a breath of wind. The house martins and the swallows were swooping and chattering and the whole site looked lush and green with grass in the alleyways and surrounding trees in full leaf.
And, looking down the vineyard we could see thousands and thousands of green shoots!
The weather this year has been unpredictable with a persistent threat of frost which can be so damaging to the vines' early buds, leaves and inflorescences (which will eventually be the bunches of grapes!). So the fact that our vines have been a bit slow to get going is not a problem - and in fact it's been quite a relief, as they are far less vulnerable to the effects of frost while the buds are in early swell compared to when they burst and develop into tender shoots. The majority of our 4000 vines are Seyval Blanc and Pinot Noir, chosen specially as they make an excellent sparkling wine and also enjoy a long ripening period. This means they can indulge in the beautiful late summer weather in Pembrokeshire and we will harvest late October - so plenty of time to let them ripen.
With the weather forecast looking good and in fact temperatures going up, we can feel a tentative confidence that the risk of frost is over (I say that whilst touching wood, crossing fingers, looking for a black cat etc), and we can really get going with the next stages in the vineyard.
So, today, we are starting to tie down the canes onto the fruiting wire ready for the shoots to grow up through the trellising. As part of our measures to protect the vines as much as possible against a late frost we had delayed this process along with pruning later, not cultivating the soil under the vines and experimenting with garden fleece (which made it look like we'd started a laundry business!).
Another job we completed before we left was replacing some of the Seyval which for whatever reason hadn't flourished. The gardeners amongst you will know that, especially with bare root plants you sometimes have failures and it is the same with bare root vines. Fortunately we've had very few but putting in the replacement vines complete with rabbit guards took us back to when our first 3500 vines were planted by a mechanised planting team which travelled over from Germany. It took them just 3 hours to plant all the vines in completely straight lines every way you looked. We then had to protect each of the vines with a rabbit guard which was secured with two bamboo canes - that is 3500 rabbit guards, 7000 bamboo canes, 3 sore backs and 6 sore hands!
We are now also getting ready for welcoming visitors back to the vineyard - and to Welsh Wine Week, which takes place 4th - 13th June and the three vineyard dogs are taking a starring role! The three amigos have starred in a 'spot the ball' competition - why not have a go? Head to www.welshwineweek.co.uk and see if you can spot the ball with a chance to win a bottle of Velfrey - I have to say I was there when the photo was taken and even I can't spot it!