“I’ve worked in the wine industry my entire working life – over 25 years. Having grown up on a sheep and beef farm in New Zealand I realised that rearing livestock wasn’t for me and that growing was more my thing. I trained at EIT in New Zealand and have worked for some incredible businesses around the world in a number of nurseries, wineries and vineyards, from tiny enterprises to gigantic operations. For the past 11 years I’ve been here at Rathfinny.
A vineyard is not just a bunch of vines in the ground, it’s an ecosystem. Without diverse, healthy, functioning relationships within that ecosystem it will fail to thrive. There’s no straight lines in nature and it’s amazing how circular life is.”
Words by Cam
As usual, Monday’s start with a crew meeting when we discuss the plans for the week ahead. Right now during summer it’s all about trimming, leaf plucking, wire lifting and ‘tucking-in’ (helping the vines grow vertically between wires). We also had an engineer on site today to service our tractors. We have four tractors being serviced which is quite a big deal, like a modern car it’s not just an oil and filters change but a reprogramming of the onboard computer and checking any faults that may have come up since the last service.
In the afternoon, I paid a visit to another like-minded regenerative vineyard. It’s good to get off-site every once in a while to see what others are doing, compare notes and discuss the season.
We’re due to spray this week so a quick stock take of what we have in the spray shed, a check of pre-harvest intervals (PHI) then a call to our agrochemical supplier to get an order in was the priority today.
Tuesday is also the day of our weekly management meeting where the senior management team all get together to discuss what everyone is doing, it’s a good way to get a handle on every aspect of the business.
We had some sap analysis done around flowering (around June) and it is time to do another round. This was Stan’s (our Vineyard Technician) first time doing sap samples so we went out into the vineyard so I could show him exactly what is needed for sampling. This involves taking a selection of specific leaves throughout a block and sending away for analysis. Nutrient requirements between flowering and veraison (when the colour of the grapes change, ready for picking) are some of the most important in the vineyard year so it is crucial to get an accurate snapshot of nutrients at this stage.
The last of the sap samples were sent off this morning, followed by a bit of scouting and disease assessment with Stan. Then a day of emails and computer work. Spraying started today so checking in with the team making sure that priority blocks are sprayed.
To start the day off, one of the spraying tractors wasn’t getting up to rev’s -turns out that the split in the intercooler that was pointed out at the service has gone right through so a quick swap around of the pipe from another tractor was needed and away we go. Obviously, that then puts that tractor out of action, and with this being one of the busiest times of the year it needs to be working so a quick trip to Kent to pick up a replacement pipe and fit that on return had the trimmer up and running as well. A bit of work on our B-Corp application finished off the day. That evening I attended the launch of the Changing Chalk project of which we are a part of. This is a partnership between the National Trust and the farmers and communities in the South Downs area helping to protect chalk grassland habitats.
A bit of a catch-up day trying to get everything done that hasn’t been done throughout the week from an emails and bookwork perspective. I log the spray sheets into our spray diary and make a plan for next week’s work.