Harvest Friends & Foes
Fiona Shiner, Founder
Harvest is still ongoing. It started on 26th September (2 weeks later than in 2020) after a challenging but rewarding year. A full update will be in our November newsletter but after 20 days hard picking we have brought in over 100 tons of grapes and have now started harvesting the later ripening sparkling varieties, Pinot Noir, Meunier and Chardonnay. Jeremy and the winery team are at full steam ahead with 44 presses behind them and a few more to go.
We get plenty of visitors to the vineyard at harvest time. Some of the more familiar wildlife interest we get is from the local birds, insects and animals. This year the birds, particularly the magpies and wood pigeons have flocked in larger numbers than before. This could be because we are picking later into October... but each year we are netting more and more varieties so we can allow the fruit time to reach optimum ripeness. The smaller hedgerow birds have always been opportunistic but are getting bolder each year as they look forward to the grape harvest. They have become accustomed to our grapes as a regular source of food in the autumn abetted by Sky Wars - we have seen the crows and magpies mobbing the buzzards who keep the smaller birds in check. Back at ground level, the less flighty pheasants love a bunch or two and are a common presence in our vineyards.
As for the six legged visitors - insects, such as ladybirds and earwigs are always part of our harvest bins - both eat aphids and other insects and are friends of the vineyard, but apparently ladybirds also enjoy a grape if aphids are in short supply. This may account for why there are so many more at harvest. Wasps on the other hand can do a lot of damage to ripening grapes and are also a hazard when picking. The 'boozy' wasps get drunk on the juice, crawl inside the half eaten grapes and the pickers have to shake them out. Last year the wasps developed a taste for Sauvignon Blanc. What is next on their wine list?
Four legged visitors to the vineyard, such as badgers, foxes and deer can consume large quantities of grapes if they are allowed. Squirrels also enjoy foraging our fruit. Not to mention the odd two legged friend sampling the grapes along the footpaths through the vineyard! Not often repeated as these are our most acidic grapes for sparkling wine and will cause even a hardened forager to pucker up.
We go to great lengths to protect our precious fruit each year, including deer fencing, electric fencing, bird squawkers and perimeter netting, but the most successful is fruit zone netting which protects the fruiting zone on both sides of the row. It allows access for machinery down the rows and the shading factor is limited to a small area with plenty of foliage above the nets to absorb the maximum amount of sunshine. The nets are a fine mesh which will also help prevent rain and hail damage and can limit wasp damage. It is expensive and time consuming to install and remove each year..... but all in a days work as this vineyard apprentice has found out ....
One of our six legged friends
Caught in the nap… Greg the vineyard apprentice after a hard day’s work!
Hot off the Press… a few facts & figures from the winery
- 105 tons picked
- 44 presses
- 26 ferments… so far!
Snails enjoying the grapes