A strange thing happened at the Vineyard this morning. I heard words from the Winemaker that I never thought would be uttered in this country; “We need rain!”
Normally, we are clammering for every minute of sunshine we can get, and looking outside with sinking hearts, as yet more rainclouds loom into view. We have to spray the vines to protect them against the pernicious damage caused by mildew which can be widespread in our normally damp, cool climate. We’re usually waiting for the rain to stop long enough so that we can spray the vines to protect them against the rain… This year, so far, could not be more different.
For those interested in climate change, for at least the last decade everything has been happening earlier each year, from bud burst and flowering to picking. Budburst happened a full 3 weeks earlier than normal this year, which we had hoped would mean the delicate buds would be hardier sooner and more able to withstand late frosts. Unfortunately, what seemed like a mild frost last week (if that’s not a contradiction in terms) has resulted in some damage to the current crop.
It’s early days still for us to gauge how much has been lost, but it’s nonetheless a blow; in the midst of all this wonderful weather, it seems doubly unfair! Some varieties are more resilient than others, so at least it hopefully won’t affect all our wines. More news next week.
Meanwhile, just to add to the things that keep us awake at night, the ground is so parched, it’s cracking in places. So much for April showers – none of us remember it raining even once in the whole of last month. The older vines are hardy enough to withstand such conditions for a while yet. The ones we’re worrying about are the vines we planted last year, and in 2009. Their root systems aren’t yet well developed enough to find water deep down, and will begin to suffer if we don’t have a good blast of rain soon.
So, glasses of wine in hand (of course), there’s nothing else for it; we’ll have to resort to performing rain dances, crossing our fingers, toes and other maleable extremeties, and otherwise hoping that the English climate delivers what it normally does best. In the meantime, it brings a new level of meaning to the phrase “dry, white wine!”