Our first harvest was a limited success at PumpjackPiddlewick

A year in, and our first harvest is in! It has been made into wine and is now in barrel. I for one am really proud. Particularly of Pumpjack for all the hard work he did, through out the last year, to make the vineyard produce something we could actually harvest.

Twelve hour days, 7 days a week, along with a bit of blood, huge amounts of sweat, and not a few (of my own) tears. It may not be everyone’s glass of wine, but at least we can call the wine ours.

We had a lovely couple of days for the harvest of our 1.5 recovering, restoration project vineyard. Not too hot, not too sunny. And with Maggie, our duck, helping with morale. She kept herding us together if we strayed too far apart and took her role of Chief Grape Tester very seriously. It made the long days pass quicker.

What do I mean by ‘recovering restoration project’? Well some of the photos will tell you, particularly the Chardonnay vines. Basically it meant we were never going to get a large crop of grapes this year. All we could hope for was a good one.

Many of the vines are dead and will need replacing. Disease had been rampant for years which meant fighting an uphill battle. The soil has little or no drainage, which we have begun to tackle. We figure about 3 more years and it may be a fully functioning vineyard. But in the meantime, we’ll consider our first harvest a limited edition success.

We have 1.5 hectares, say roughly the size of a football pitch. Each row has about 60 vines. So, it only took 4 of us about a day and a half to harvest all the grapes. We figure the vineyard gave us about 1/8, if that, of its potential capacity.

Still we are happy with the resulting wine. We now have a barrel of very tasty Pinot Noir amounting to approximately 300 bottles. And another of about 70 bottles of Pinot Meunier which has been made into an absolutely delicious rosé.

As for the Chardonnay… There were only enough grapes to fill a few buckets, which amounted to about 5 litres of juice. I gather from Pumpjack it has made an ‘interesting’ wine, said with a grimace. Looks like the Chardonnay vines will need quite a bit more work to get them producing something we can actually make something out of.

The recovery of the vineyard is not just about the vines, but also the winery and the paperwork. We’re slowly making the winery become better functioning. We bought new seals for the tanks, as well as valves and a hose. No pump as yet, but Pumpjack came up with a gravity system to aid in the pump overs.

The big bonuses this year were getting an actual tool for the punch down, rather than using the Driving Iron golf club. Also an iron rod for the old fashioned press, rather than a garden stick.  In addition, we optimistically bought 3 wooden oak barrels from further south in Burgundy. And last but maybe most difficult, we’re forging our way through the French paperwork.

So all in all, we are quietly excited. We won’t be making our fortunes this year.  It will be a slow process, for certain, with no short cuts available. But we are very pleased with the harvests results none-the-less. We had hoped for a high quantity, but are very happy with the quality.

Our Finding a Vineyard Series (in order)

1. Following a Dream

2. How to Find a Vineyard in France (or not)

3. Finding a Vineyard in France (or not)

4. Finding a Vineyard in Burgundy

5. Our First Harvest – Pursuing grapes, bees, birds, mildew and rot

6. Our First Harvest – Winemaking, cleaning and beer

3 Comments

    1. Author

      Thank you. It certainly feels like it. We’re truly pleased with the result. And now we have to get to grips with French Customs and Taxes. Meeting Monday. Fingers-crossed.


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