We have just finalised the first vine order for Rathfinny. We’ve ordered 72,000 vines for delivery in 2012 and we are planting a mixture of five different varieties: Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier, Riesling and Pinot Gris.
As our intention is to specialise in top quality sparkling wine, we are planting the classic varieties of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Meunier. The most difficult decision was choosing the clones especially for Pinot Noir.
In Europe, all vines are planted on rootstocks. This is to prevent the resurgence of phylloxera, a horrible insect that eats vine roots and leaves and decimated the vineyards of Europe in the late 19th century. Choosing the rootstock was a relatively easy decision; we need a rootstock that not only has phylloxera resistance but could also cope with the high pH and chalky soils. We have chosen Fercal, which is widely planted in the Champagne region. It promotes early ripening and has a very high resistance to lime-induced chlorosis, which causes the leaves to turn yellow. Onto this rootstock the nursery will graft our selected clones. We spent many months researching the best clones to use and we have chosen a selection of what are referred to as ‘Dijon’ and ‘Champagne’ clones, as they are suited to still and sparkling wine production. The main criterion was to select clones that produce the best quality wines but are suited to our climate. So we needed clones, which develop open clusters that reduce disease risk. We have chosen each clone variety to give us a balance of flavours and yield to help blend top quality wine.
We have also chosen to plant out some Riesling and Pinot Gris to provide us with some still wine. The reason for this is that apart from providing us with some wine that we can sell earlier(!), the sparkling won’t be available until 2017 and the still wine will become available in 2014, it will also show the provenance of the land. We believe we have found not only one of the most beautiful pieces of land in England but one of the best-suited sites for grapes.
Riesling is one of my favourite grape varieties and it is a very versatile grape that produces wine that has wonderful fruit and acidity and can be aged to produce fantastically complex wine. However, very few people have had any success with the grape in England. We believe we have the right site to ripen Riesling. Our local farmer always tells us that Rathfinny is the first farm that he harvests every year. We are also very confident that the Pinot Gris will ripen well at Rathfinny and produce a wonderful fresh dry white wine.
After many months of research we have chosen a nursery in Germany to propagate our vines. Quality is the guiding principle at Rathfinny and they supply the best quality plants that we have seen in England. Also, they specialise in high grafted vines. They are a little more expensive but you get what you pay for. We are planting high grafted vines, basically tall vines where the graft is at 90cm instead of 30cm. The reason for this is that they not only give the vines a years head start, because they get to the fruiting wire a year earlier, they also will provide some protection against rabbits – more about those at a later date.
We have also just planted out our Shelter Belts, more about that on the next Blog..
Canes awaiting processing in the Nursery.
High grafted vines in a German vineyard.