A Wine Writers View on the World of Wine. Formerly Magics Wine Guide and Reviews for Newbies
A little while back I released a post titled “Magic goes back to school.”
A quick recap. I signed up with Plumpton College to study ‘The Principle of Vinegrowing’. It is a seven day course stretched over 7 months which gives an insight in to viticulture.
Now, probably a wee bit naive of me, having studied various pieces of viticulture during my WSET days I thought it would be a case of learning the theoretical side mixed up with some practical exercises, easy. Mmmm, I was wrong.
What WSET doesn’t teach you is the more intricate side to viticulture.
My original plan was to keep you, the discerned reader, up to date on my course. Let me tell you this, as someone who isn’t and never has been agriculturally minded, there is a lot to learn. So much so that I didn’t quite know how to break down day one’s Evaluating and Improving Vineyard Sites section. I have now just completed day two, Selecting Vine Varietals and Winter Pruning.
After day one I could only sum up the day as this. Imagine being given a jigsaw puzzle, none of the pieces fit, yet you have to craft something that is likeable and recognisable. Everything you do contradicts another aspect of the process. In short, it’s mind boggling. There is so much to learn.
Site evaluation is about picking the right site to enable you to operate a successful vineyard or change an existing one. What are you looking for? Climate, soil type, varietals, aspect, microclimate, mesoclimate, macroclimate, geography, frosts, drainage, annual rain fall, heat summations, pests and more. Believe me when I say there is more to it than looking at a plot of land and thinking ‘that’ll do’. Very intense.
Day two was very interesting. Selecting Vine Varietals and Winter Pruning.
Yet again I found my original thoughts about the day, before I began, as being naive.
With vine varietals I new this would be tricky. Picking the right species that will suit your vineyard. It’s not about saying I want to grow Cabernet and going ahead with planting it. Cabernet may not fit your vineyards bill. What system are you going to use to select your varietals, mass or clonal selection? Nowadays most wineries will go with clonal selection. Clones are plants originating from a single parent. National legislation may come in to effect. Vine rootstocks, roots grafted on to vines, are just as important. The correct rootstock will counteract particular diseases, bugs etc. More importantly is know your market place.
What I did find surprising was how technical winter pruning can be. You’ve had your harvest and now you need to prepare the vine for winter shut down and next season. What do you remove? What do you leave? How long does the cane, vine branch that will be used for the following years growth, need to be? Where do you get your spur from? The spur is the small cane stub that will be the bases for the following years cane. Is any of the vine diseased? A lot to deal with.
Over the two days I found this a lot of information to absorb. These are only the highlights I’ve shown here. Very challenging but very enjoyable.
With any luck I’ll be able to put some of this in to practise. Simon Fisher, Proprietor/Winemaker at West Fisher Winery, is a colleague on the course with me. He has been tasked with regenerating a small vineyard in Downe, Kent, England. A lot of work is still needed down there and he’s agreed to let me help.