Updated: Dec 29, 2020
There’s a lot that 2020 has to answer for, but there have been some positives that have come out of this year as well. The dreaded lockdowns has seen families spending more time together, travel restrictions has seen a boom in the UK holiday market and many of us have started to think about how we can become more self-sufficient at home with kitchen gardens springing up across the country.
To go with all the home-grown produce, why not add a bottle of your own wine to the table? Welcombe Hills Vineyard have introduced a “Micro Vineyard Gift Voucher” to introduce more wine enthusiasts to the thrill of growing your own wine grapes. At the vineyard in Stratford-upon-Avon we are planting more Pinot Noir and Bacchus vines in 2021, and are offering local gardeners the chance to plant and cultivate vines at home.
This gift experience is presented in an elegant gift box, and includes all the information the recipient needs in order to register and collect their vines. Once the vines are established and the grapes picked, for every 2kg of grapes added to the Welcombe Hills harvest, you can expect a bottle of your own wine at just the cost of production.
The Pinot Noir and Bacchus vines can thrive in our cooler climate, and well suited to Warwickshire weather. Indeed, both these varieties have already produced award-winning wines for Welcombe Hills Vineyard.
The vines will be ready for planting in May 2021, and here is a selection of the questions we've fielded already for this unique gift!
1. Is it hot enough in Warwickshire to grow grapes?
The short answer is yes! We’ve been making growing wine grapes just outside Stratford-upon-Avon since 2001. The grape varieties we grow have been selected specifically for their hardy nature and have produced award-winning wines for us. Our best producers are the Bacchus and Pinot Noir vines, which is why we’re expanding and planting more of them. We also grow Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Auxerrois, Pinot Précoce (aka Früburgunder), Dornfelder, Seyval Blanc and a little bit of Kerner.
2. What about our cold winters?
Cold winers do not affect your vines and is actually part of the process around the world. Every year post harvest the vines go dormant, ready to come back in Spring.
This year, UK vineyards also had to contend with a late frost which decimated much of the harvests this year. We managed to escape this thanks to our sheltered position in Snitterfield and also some basic vineyard management we did in preparation, such as clearing grass around the vines.
3. What pests are a threat to the vines?
Grapes are beautiful and juicy fruits – as they ripen you’ll need to be on your guard from natural pests and predators!
On a small scale, you may wish to consider fencing or netting to protect against deer, badgers and rabbits as well as birdlife. We recommend plastic collars on them to begin with so the young shoots don’t get munched! Insects? In the long run, pests become resistant to chemicals and harder to kill.
4. Do the vines need watering?
Not really. Our cooler climate allows the vines to naturally take enough water through rainfall for what they need. There’s no need to set up an irrigation system or water them. Plus, too much water (and rain!) can lead to problems with rot and mildew.
5. How can I make wine from my grapes?
There are various home-wine making kits on the market complete with instructions, but the easiest way is to pick the grapes and add them to our harvest! We’ll tell you when we’re picking each variety, so you’ll know when to pick and bring them round. For every 2kg grapes picked, you’ll get a bottle back at just the cost of production. The grapes will join ours and be pressed and fermented at the winery, and will be ready to drink around 6 – 12 months later. The Bacchus will generally be ready first, whereas the Pinot Noir get a bit of time to oak-age in a barrel.
6. How many grapes will each vine produce?
This is subject to many variables throughout the growing season, but it is reasonable to expect 2kg of grapes from a well looked after vine – in a good year this could be as much as 5kg! Ideally, you’ve have between 10 to 20 bunches of grapes on a vine each year.
7. Where should I plant my vines?
Wherever you decide to plant your vines, plan ahead for your trellising system. This could be against a wall or fence, preferably south facing to get maximum sunlight, or free standing with poles and wire (we could help you with this option). If the vines are regularly pruned, we would suggest at least 1.5m in between each vine.
8. How long will it take to establish?
It will be 3 years before you’ll be able to harvest grapes. The first few years are all about establishing and training the vine. After planting, cut back the main stem to two strong buds above the graft or above ground level. You can install posts and fruiting wires at a later date, as you won’t need them for a couple of years. Then, it will be time to start tying down the shoots for them to grow outwards instead of upwards.
9. When will my wine be ready?
It takes 3 years for new vines to produce harvest-ready fruit, and then a further 6-8 months to make the wine. Harvest is usually September/October each year and then we welcome the wine back the following May.
COLLECTING YOUR VINE(S)
We’ll be in touch to confirm a date when you can collect your vine from Welcombe Hills Vineyard, which will be in May 2021.
Welcombe Hills Vineyard provide full care and cultivation instructions of what to do when, and there will be a series of “how to” videos throughout the year on topics such as pruning, leaf stripping and disease control.
We’re always happy to help and our contact details are readily available on our website. If we can’t help you over the phone, then we’ll come over and see what we can do.
This is the first time new vines have been planted at Welcombe Hills Vineyard since 2007. Join us in this adventure and help continue making award-winning wine from local grapes. You can find out more information about us on our website, or click below to purchase your vines!
CLICK HERE to purchase 1 Bacchus or Pinot Noir vine (£20.00)
CLICK HERE to purchase 5 Bacchus or Pinot Noir vines (£40.00)
For more gift ideas, see our Christmas Catalogue