We sat – wife, dog and I – having a post-work beer, in front of vineyard cabin last night. Darkness falling. We like it up at the top of Wyfold evening time. Our house – a couple miles away – is very shaded by the big trees on the Common so we never see a sunset. The vineyard by contrast has a huge sky view all round except for the sheltering north copse under which we sat. Tranquil.
Until we noticed the yellow leaves floating down on us from the trees above … a cause for concern. And puzzlement … such that Barbara went back over to check again the vines she'd just been working on. No, the vines were definitely NOT losing their leaves. On the contrary, they are growing more … like never seen before. The trees may think its autumn. But the vines don't. Why? What does this mean?
We've had two big work parties here. Volunteers from the village and from Laithwaite's. Stripping away like mad; pulling off big handfuls of the lower leaves to expose the bunches behind. A week later, the damn things have grown back. So Barbara and everyone she can coerce are stripping again. It’s to let the air and light in on to the grapes. To chase away the moisture that could lead to dreaded rot.
There's a good crop out there.
Also in the New Aquitaine House vineyard at Theale, also at Henry's Marlow and at the Royal Farm vineyard in Windsor. All now, for the first time, in full production.
Keep going little vines. And more sun please!
We'd had a quick look at Windsor that afternoon. The Company holds this 'English Sparkling' competition for who has done most to promote our National Wine. The prize was a good lunch with Barbara, myself and Anne Linder who keeps her eagle eye on our vineyards. For the lunch she chose the Royal Oak at Holyport. It has a cracking wine list with lots of the obscure little-gem wines I love. Mo the manager runs it with Nick Parkinson, Sir Michael Parkinson's son.
This, of course allows me to tell everyone as how Sir Michael was a very early customer of mine in … 1971. He'd come in regularly for his two favourite wines: my two best-sellers back then; the special cuvee Bergerac Rouge I got through my mate 'Popol' – played alongside him in the 1968/9 Castillon XV … so then of course he was obliged, when chief oenologist in Bergerac, to slip me every year, the name of the best tank that came through his lab – and Chateau de Panisseau Bergerac Blanc Sec. Lovely wine. Much missed. As was Michael, didn't see him much when we moved to Slough.
Anyway, great lunch and we drank (it was a prize, so I couldn't stint). The Basque wine IROULEGUY from the Pyrenees and a SAVOIE ROUSSETTE from the Alps; wines I used to ship long ago.
Then a Spaniard from Leon BIERZO which we do still ship and a good Chianti-type Tuscan LA DIFESE TENUTA SAN GUIDO 2011.
To finish; LATE HARVEST TORRONTES - from high up in SALTA ARGENTINA & PINOT GRIS VENDANGES TARDIVES BOTT GEYL 2008 Didn't finish all of course. We taste only. We are moderate folk.
Anyway well done and thanks to Will Waters, Simon Millard and Alex Eager. You ever want a good steer on wines call/mail one of these three very wise men. I do.
Anyway, by way of recovering with some fresh air we then took the back roads over to the Great Park. The vineyard is in a private area of the Park. There is tight security … but it doesn't control the abundant wildlife; but then … it is a Wildlife Reserve. All the usual stuff … which behave themselves more or less, except the parakeets! Aussie escapees. There's a big flock of these colourful, noisy and destructive b***dy birds. Overgrown budgies. That like grapes. My plan this year is to hang little mirrors and bells around the vineyard … distract them: "who's a pretty boy? Who's a pretty boy?" Ting-ting.
Hopefully, meanwhile, we'll get a good crop. Looks good so far. Vines well stripped, grapes healthy. But more sun please.