Rathfinny Wine Estate

Spring’s arrived….

After what has been the wettest winter since records began it is a relief to have a bit of sunny weather. My daughter has taken to posting pictures of blue sky on Instagram and we stare in awe at the night sky seeing stars again.

So the question I’m asked the most at the moment is, ‘how has the wet weather affected the vines?’

Flint Barns feb14

Well the honest answer is that apart from some soil erosion as you can see from the picture above, the fields look white as the chalk becomes more exposed, the main effect of the rain is that it has been very hard to get things done. Typically during January and February, as explained in Cameron’s latest blog, we are pruning our vines. However, pruning vines in the rain spreads diseases so we have had to wait for dry days. Consequently we are about two weeks behind on pruning and we are about three weeks behind on the building work on the Flint Barns which will provide accommodation for seasonal workers. However, the main problem this winter for us has been the wind. We had gale after gale to contend with. We lost a chunk off the roof of one of our grain barns and it has slowed down the contractors who are putting up temporary wind breaks. During the last severe gale, eight posts were bent over, when wind speeds of over 120mph were recorded on the Isle of Wight!

Alfriston has also suffered. Luckily the Environment Agency dredged the entrance to the Cuckmere just prior to the worst of the rain and so, although the entrance to Alfriston village was closed for a while due to flooding, the Cuckmere was emptying reasonably well, until the storms moved the shingle along the beach again and closed off the entrance. I hope the EA look at dredging the Cuckmere river around Alfriston and keep dredging the entrance otherwise Alfriston will be lost under water.

Wet Cuckmere

However, we are now seeing real signs of spring and although the winter was very wet it has been very mild. We haven’t had any really cold weather at all and lately the vineyard crew are almost in T-shirts again. Spring bulbs have burst out and the buds on the vines are noticeably swelling. If it stays this way we could have an early bud-burst, which is good for the season but worrying as we might get a late frost.

Lastly – we have been active on Twitter recently highlighting how much tax is paid on wine in the UK.

As you can read on the Baudoc Blog – http://blog.bauduc.com/2014/02/11/why-the-uk-duty-on-wine-is-unfair/ – over 57% of the cost of the average bottle of wine is tax. We have one of the highest rates of duty on wine of any country in Europe and we pay VAT on top of this excise duty!

The problem started in 2008 when Alistair Darling introduced a duty escalator on wine, beer and spirits. This was meant to last for four years but was extended on wine and spirits in 2013 by George Osborne. It means that duty rises by 2% above the rate of inflation, so duty has risen by over 54% over the last five years! It’s about time we called time on this horrendous rise in excise duty.

Mark Driver

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