Rathfinny Wine Estate

English Wine Week

Given the size of the English wine industry we do get some fantastic press coverage. It is worth putting our little fledgling industry into perspective – we currently produce less than 5 million bottles per annum, that is a mere fraction of the 350 million bottles we import from Australia every year and even less than the amount of wine we import from Hungary! We consume approximately 1.7 billion bottles of wine per annum, or about 4.6 million bottles per day. We have a long way to go to catch up with the rest of Europe in terms of production.

We have introduced a new item to our website recently which is worth promoting. We are now collating news about the English Wine Industry on the following linkhttp://www.rathfinnyestate.com/englishwine.htm or click on the link at the top of the blog home page (above).

Over the last two weeks we have had plenty of good news: The Queen is planting out vines in Windsor park. Denbies Chalk Ridge Rose has won a gold medal at the International Wine Challenge. Chapel Down’s Rose Brut won a gold medal in the same IWC competition. Ridgeview’s Fitzrovia Rose was served at the state banquet when the Obama’s visited last week. M&S reported a 70% increase in English wine sales and the Duchess of Cornwall was incredulous that we can’t call our fine English Sparkling Wine Champagne as a lot of it is better than the French stuff. “It’s so annoying not to be able to call it champagne, when it is champagne.” Take a look at our news page.

As I head into the end of my first year at Plumpton, you may be relieved to hear that I passed (I think, I am still waiting for the results from a couple of assignments). I have to say that we have come a long way in the last year. I have learnt a huge amount and we have just bought our first tractor… more on that next week.

In the mean time I have to report that I have just picked my first cucumber from the greenhouse this year, about month earlier than last year, this weather has been incredible, sadly it has not been good news for our cereal crops which are looking a bit stunted, they need some rain desperately and the long range forecast is for very little rain until September, perhaps this will be the bar-b-q summer we were promised last year?

This week is English Wine Week so I hope that you are all tucking into some delicious English wine

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Cover crops

About four weeks ago our local farmer, Duncan Ellis, planted out a cover crop on the fields we will be planting with vines in 2012.

I spent many weeks in the Plumpton College library reading books about cover crops and got very confused.

Essentially you plant a cover crop to protect the soil from erosion, to prevent weed growth and as a green crop to improve soil fertility, adding nutrients and improving soil structure by raising the humus level in the soil. This last point is very important to us as the soil samples we have taken indicate that, although the soil is fine for arable crops, the potassium, phosphate and magnesium levels are below the levels ideal for vines. So prior to planting our vines in spring 2012 we are trying to raise the levels of essential nutrients in the soil by direct addition of fertiliser, green waste (the council recycled stuff) and cover cropping.

I had initially planned to plant out red clover as our cover crop, however, as the soil at Rathfinny is so well draining I was advised that clover doesn’t take very well.  So I then looked common vetch, Austrian peas, rye and mustard. All cover crops that have been used in organic vineyards in California.

We have settled on mustard, principally because it will take well on the soil at Rathfinny, and despite the lack of rain since planting, it has already come up well in most areas. I was advised that peas could be susceptible to some forms of nematodes and also sclerotinia crown rot. Sclerotinia is a fungal infection, which can also affect grapevine roots. In order to lessen the risk of this infection in the peas, the advice was to plant two pea crops in succession. Which is a shame because from my research peas look to be the best returner of nitrogen, and the best biomass provider. Some of the vineyards in California have had problems with common vetch, which is also a good nitrogen and biomass producer, but it became too invasive and difficult to control. So in the end, after consulting experts from Plumpton College and Ohio State University, thank you Patti, we decided on mustard. Which, when mowed and turned into the soil in early 2012, will provide a good deal of biomass, some nitrogen and will probably reseed itself after the vines are planted out.

We may plant out some crimson clover and rye grass latter this year to add further biomass. This can be turned in prior to planting in spring 2012.

Mustard, as well as being pretty good for the soil it also looks good in a vineyard.

 A great blog about the use of mustard.

http://pinanapavalley.blogspot.com/2009/02/cover-cropsmustardanna.html

Our mustard is taking well… so are the nettles!

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