Blog 5 – Winter dormancy

Tuesday 19th December 2017

Although the vineyard now resembles a collection of dead twigs, winter is still an important part of the growth cycle. The vines have built up sufficient carbohydrate reserves during the summer to enable roots to survive below ground. Cold weather will kill off many germs and parasites, and is necessary to force leaf-drop, without which buds won’t form the following year. This is why the two main vine-growing regions of the world lie between 30°-50° north and south of the Equator, respectively. Vines won’t grow where the weather is too cold outside these latitudes, nor will they grow properly where the weather nearer the Equator is too temperate because the necessary leaf-fall will not occur.

There is still plenty of work to do however, trimming overhanging tree branches that impede the tractor, replanting failed Italian alders within the windbreak, giving the last mow of the season, leaf clearance, cleaning/laying up machinery and dosing sprayers with antifreeze. And of course the steep slope provides ideal sledging for children excited by their first “proper” snow in 5 years!

Inside the winery, we have signed off the taste of our first wine – a sparkling rosé scheduled for release in Spring of 2018. The wine has spent the last 2 years undergoing secondary fermentation in the bottles. French Champagne yeast has increased the alcohol level and generated millions of tiny, dense CO2 bubbles – but in doing so, will have consumed every last vestige of sugar, making the wine overly dry – even for a “brut”. After the bottles have been turned upside down, and the necks frozen in ice to disgorge a “plug” of dead yeast, the contents will be topped back up to 75cl using slightly sweetened wine. Sadly, the process isn’t finished yet since the wine needs time to recover, and the added sugar to blend in. If you rush this stage, the drinker would experience a strange shock of dry wine followed by a smack of sugar taste at the back of his/her palate.

Our white wine needs a little longer due to maturation in oak barrels and should be ready later in 2018. One of the fun aspects has been designing the packaging, and we hope you will be impressed by the clean, modern labelling and quality-feel.

Within the wider industry, English Wine Producers Ltd and United Kingdom Vineyards Association merged to form a new national body for the UK wine industry, now called Wines of Great Britain Limited. The more common name will be “WineGB” and Fairmile Vineyard was flattered to be invited to sit on its export committee. As the uncertainties over Brexit make it even more imperative for the UK to export goods and services, WineGB wanted input from a small boutique producer to understand how it can best serve members’ interests in exporting wine from the UK.

Have a great Christmas – the last you’ll need to celebrate without any sparkling wine from Fairmile Vineyard Henley-on-Thames!

Web design by Marmalade and Jam