“It wouldn’t be English wine without the unpredictable English weather.”

With recent weather warming up and an increased freedom outside of the house, I do hope you have been enjoying the start of Summer. It does feel sudden though, almost as if we skipped the majority of Spring. Perhaps this is mostly due to a cold April and a rain-soaked May.

As part of the vineyard team at Rathfinny, I have been eagerly awaiting the growing season. Bud burst was late this year across the UK, due to unusually cold weather in April, and the delayed start to the growing season has disrupted my usual yearly routine, though exciting projects have managed to fill the time. Filming vines for an AI machine learning tool, probably takes the cake.

Stan with his Clipboard

Our bud burst has been fairly uniform in recent years, averaging dates 14th-27th April between 2017-2020, so it came as some surprise to see greenery not emerge until 4th-30th May during this year.

Observe below the comparative differenc from 2020:

Bud Burst and Temperature Graph

Average temperature during April/May 2021 rarely reached the heights of 2020. With the UK seeing its lowest average minimum temperatures since 1922.

With low temperatures comes plenty of frost, which can be incredibly destructive to newly emerging shoots. Ice crystals form within delicate new plant cells, causing shoots to become shrivelled and brown in colour.

We also suffered from a bit of wind damage, with gusts reaching 99kmh on the 21st May. Not great when leaves are just starting to develop!

June 3rd 2020
3rd June

2020

June 3rd 2021
3rd June

2021

Fortunately, here at Rathfinny we withstood most of the frost and wind. We experienced 5 days where temperatures reached below zero, compared to 11 days on average across England. It sure does help being close to the coast.

As for the present, I am about to begin the task of counting inflorescences (developing flowers that will eventually become bunches). This takes a while, given the number of vines here at Rathfinny, but will contribute to the prediction of our yield for 2021.

It would be easy to be pessimistic about the start to our growing season, but with the recent warm weather the vines are beginning to catch-up, and we still have flowering and ripening to look forward to. Two very important periods for the vines. We’re hoping the heat stays with us well into the autumn. After all, it would not be English wine without unpredictable English weather.

Counting Vine Leaves

Sources

Weather data sourced from www.metoffice.gov.uk & www.contour.ag-space.com

https://www.metoffice.gov.uk/about-us/press-office/news/weather-and-climate/2021/lowest-average-minimum-temperatures-since-1922-as-part-of-dry-april

https://blog.metoffice.gov.uk/2021/04/27/frostiest-april-for-at-least-60-years-in-uk/