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So what goes on in Winter…

Hello everyone and welcome new subscribers! It’s been a long time since I’ve written one of these, we had an incredibly busy season last year and unfortunately, we just couldn’t squeeze in the time to write many newsletters. So aiming to change that I want to kick the year off with writing one that perhaps is a little more nerdy.

As many of you know, we close our doors to the public over the winter period but not all of you may know why…

You’d be forgiven for thinking that the winter is the quiet time in the vineyard and in many respects it is, the laughs from vineyard tours don’t echo through the vine rows, the sound of corks being popped has long since disappeared and the wine glasses are not being relentlessly recharged… for the most part. After a long day of hard labour, living in a vineyard still has its perks.

There’s no question then that the winter period looks very different here, but it’s a hive of activity nonetheless.

The focus between December and reopening in April is preparing the vineyard for the season to come but what exactly does this involve? This is going to be one for any budding viticulturists out there or those who simply have a deeper interest in how their wine actually ends up in their glass.

It’s a funny feeling when you finish a harvest. 2023 was my 4th harvest here and by all accounts, it was the biggest yet, in fact, it was a monster. High temperatures during the spring flowering period in 2022 meant that 2023 was already gearing up to be a big one and it didn’t disappoint, across the country record tonnage was reported for almost every vineyard. Here we topped out at just under 30 tonnes of grapes, yielding a whopping 20,000 bottles of wine. Like I said though, it’s a funny feeling when you finish the harvest, a feeling of elation yes, immense pride at what you’ve achieved for the year and excitement for how it’s all going to translate into the wine you produce but also one of what could have been. I’m learning now that as a vineyard manager, as soon as one harvest ends, you immediately start thinking about how you could improve and what little tweaks you could make to produce an even better crop the following year.

This leads us into the first job of the year and without a doubt the largest and most important, pruning. A lot of people don’t realise that every year, once the vineyard lies dormant, we cut everything back to a very small percentage of the vine that was previously there in the summer to produce the new growth for the new season. The first time I did this was an extremely daunting task, I had very little experience in pruning, 1 day of learning and some extensive hours of YouTube to be precise. I must admit that when I dived into pruning the Pinot Noir, I remember looking at just how much I’d taken off and was terrified that I’d just killed the vineyard. You can Imagine my relief when, the following spring it all burst back into life again.

With a few more years under my belt, this year I was feeling confident with the pruning but going back to wanting to tweak things to always improve, pruning was no exception.

It’s been fascinating to learn in much more detail how we can tailor the pruning to the demands of each grapevine to really deliver great quality and balance in fruit production. Having just wrapped up the pruning, a mammoth job that’s taken the best part of 3 months - you wouldn’t believe how good it feels to finish cutting that last plant. I feel we’ve done a great job this year in bringing the vineyard into balance to get us off to a great start to produce a brilliant crop this year.

Getting geeky in the vineyard.

Continuing on our evolution, this year we’re having a big push on data to understand exactly what’s going on in the vines and to influence the decisions we make. And without getting too geeky, it’s really cool!

We’ve introduced 3 new weather stations in the vineyard to monitor, rainfall, temperature, wind and humidity in the canopy. This allows us to better track how the season is progressing, harvest times, predicted yields etc… but also when we need to spray. This is a big one for me as whilst we’ve always operated on a mandate of spray only when necessary and even then it’s with great disdain, I’d like to move away from spraying completely and without a doubt that is a goal for the future. Having the weather stations allows us to dial in on when it’s absolutely necessary and when we’d be doing it when perhaps we could get away with not doing it, so this is going to hopefully cut our spraying even further which is great. Of course, this relies on the famously unreliable English weather! According to the new stations we’ve had over 100mm of rain this month alone at the time of writing which is absurd. Fingers crossed by the time Bud burst kicks in we’ll be on track for much drier days! It hasn’t stopped fun here though, the Motley cru has banded together, and soaking clothes and high winds can’t dampen our spirits as long as there’s plenty of hot coffee and a good podcast to listen to! By now we’ve had plenty of practice at our latte art…

Vineyard regeneration:

This is our next big project this year, how we farm the vineyard. Vineyard regeneration is a practice of viticulture all about creating a sustainable environment. Protecting it, then regenerating and enhancing it to improve vine health, encourage biodiversity and strengthen the soil web to instil longevity and resilience in the vineyard. Those of you who have visited before will know that we love our wildflowers here, we have planted thousands and thousands all around the vineyard not least because they look stunning but also to increase the biodiversity here. This year we want to take that one step further, with a cover crop. This will be planted every other row and will not only be a buzz of stunning colour but also a hive of insect activity to increase biodiversity and also put a huge amount of organic matter back into the soil.

We’ve also been looking into further plants to act as companion plants for the vines. The hope is that these will aid in the delay of the spread of pathogenic fungi such as downy and powdery mildew - two of the biggest issues we face in the U.K. Plants, Plants and Plants, the power of plants cannot be underestimated and we are going to be making big use of them in 2024, our horticultural team are going to be in full swing, even creating fantastic herbal teas, rich in nutrients and pathogenic fungi fighting microorganisms.

Part of the programme will also be to reintroduce more chickens and ducks in the vineyard, they bring a whole host of benefits, eating unwanted insects and also providing us with some excellent natural fertiliser so look out for them running around the vineyard this summer.

So that’s just a little snapshot of what’s going on behind the scenes at the moment in terms of the viticultural side of things. There’s a busy few months ahead to hit the ground running for what I hope will be an even better year still, with some really exciting wines to come!

Until next time,


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Love getting more into the geekery - I'd love to know more about 'spraying' - what it's for, how you can use conditions to plan when you do or don't need to spray, and how you hope to remove this altogether...

Really great to hear about the increase in 'natural solutions' such as increasing presence of flowers for nutrient cycling and using animals to keep insects to a manageable level. We need MUCH more of this. Everywhere!

Replying to

Hi Nikki, so we always operate on spray only when we absolutely have too and even then I hate doing it. Unfortunately in viticulture and especially in the UK with the climate we have this isn’t always easy as damp and humid conditions are a haven for the likes of powdery mildew, downy mildew and botrytis. So when we talk about sprays this is what we’re aiming to protect against/eradicate.

The idea of the weather stations is to give us a more accurate reading of the conditions that are actually present in the vineyard at any given time allowing us to get a better picture of whether we need to spray or not. Hopefully these will allow us to cut…

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