As Storm Pia settles in the week before Christmas (storms have a way of transforming our little valley into a very Brontë-esque scene, so while it’s not the snow topped panorama we all hoped for, you can’t deny the atmosphere when you take a walk up there) we’ve turned to more indoor jobs to put our efforts to.
On the rare day where rain or high winds haven’t tormented us, Cam and I have continued to work along 30 Acre. Having finished the Rondo that you can see in front of the Tasting Room, we’re now tackling some of our oldest vines in the first site, which sits on the other side of the track leading up to the top. Tom and Cam have also been completing the gruelling job of levelling out the side of the Tasting Room (I promise I’ve tried to help them, but I’m pretty sure I just become more of a hindrance as I chip away at chalk and dirt as if it were something much harder). Once it’s complete, the Tasting Room will have storage aplenty for weddings, corporate events, and our cellar door!
Last week Tom had a visit from Mark Palmer, from the Soil Association Exchange, who had a lot of questions about the soil on the farm. They had very kindly offered to run an analysis on some soil samples across the farm, which would tell us what kind of condition the soil is in. While we’re still awaiting the official report back from the Soil Association Exchange, Palmer was very impressed by how little we disturb the top layer of soil on our South Cave sites, and was confident that we were near carbon neutral when it comes to how we use and look after the soil. In 2020, the UK Agricultural industry produced around 44.8 MtCO2e (million tonnes carbon dioxide equivalent - for those who, like me, were wondering what that long bit after the number meant). This is worth roughly 11% of the total Green House Gas emissions released in the UK. And while the industry has certainly made strides in recent years to cut that number down - which was as high as 53.6 MtCO2e in 1990 - it’s important we continue to look at what we are doing to ensure that we protect and nurture the land we have. At LWV, we are very proud of our personal efforts towards this decline: we don’t use any pesticides on the vineyards; much of our land is left to grow naturally, allowing for an environment that encourages biodiversity, ultimately helping us in return with all the different insects and animals that work their own small miracles to keep LWV ticking over; and working by hand, while difficult, also means the amount of fuel we require to complete our job is much less than other farms in the UK.
Meanwhile, Cam and I were given the task of collecting samples from each of our 2023 wines to take some tests and check how they were faring in the tanks. In the immediate aftermath of pressing and fermentation, we noticed that the majority of the wines were opaque - an issue we had not faced in our first year of pressing. Naturally, we were a little flustered (or, if you were Tom and Alice in this scenario, you were downright devastated). We spent an awful lot of time, both on and off the clock - if there is such a thing as ‘off the clock’ in this job, trying to determine what had caused the cloudy look, and how, if at all, we could fix it. Our lovely consultant, Kieran, from English Wine Project, had told us not to fret, that cloudy wine could be rectified, and that we just needed to give it time. As I’ve said before, patience is a virtue you gain on this farm through gritted teeth and a lot of sleepless nights, but we did as we were told. So, on that day, me and Cam held our breath as we began to pull the wine from the tanks. Thirteen samples later, we were very happy with what we were seeing. Out of all thirteen, only two wines still had a discerning amount of opacity. These two samples also happened to be the last two varieties we pressed this year and are therefore a whole month behind the first presses. Sending the photos and updates to Tom and Alice (and a small victory dance in the winery on our part, mostly to keep us warm but also because we were incredibly happy) we then tested the SO2 levels (this is added to prevent oxidisation in the tanks) and added what was necessary to each tank. It may not be the most traditional Christmas tale, but it’s heart-warming nonetheless, right?
Earlier this year, Alice was invited onto the THRIVE podcast, run by John Good Group. The episode covers the family history, how the Wilsons acquired the farm and its many faces in the years since we have owned it. The podcast is an excellent showcase of family run businesses, and while we’re obviously going to recommend you listen to our episode, there are a range of different businesses that all have their own stories that will interest you too! As with all businesses we bump into on this journey, we’ve been in contact with the John Good Group since, and they even held their Christmas party in our Tasting Room, where the company’s CEO, Adam Walsh, had interviewed Alice back in March. Walsh left us a very kind review, saying, “[it was] without a doubt the best party … The staff were brill, venue and fireworks amazing, and the organisation was top notch.” We love happy customers, especially when those customers leave such kind feedback for us - I could be humble and put it down to the festive cheer, but honestly I think we do host a pretty good party.
And if you needed any additional reason to believe me, our very own Hayley had her daughter’s wedding at LWV last week! Alice (probably important I mention here that Hayley’s daughter is also called Alice - funny coincidence, don’t you think?) and Alex were married on Saturday, and if this gorgeous photo of the happy couple enjoying the winter sun doesn’t make you tear up a little then you need to have a second look. It’s an honour for us to host weddings and share a space that we know to be beautiful with people who want to make beautiful memories. But to have the additional honour of it being one of our own added another level of sentimentality to the day for us all, and we are so very grateful for Hayley and her family for trusting us with the special day. We have another two weddings this week (it’s never too close to Christmas to say I do, à la Love Actually when Colin Firth proposes to Aurelia and Keira Knightly marries Peter in the opening montage), as well as another corporate event. And even though our last Christmas deliveries have gone, we are still running our cellar door as usual this weekend, so if you’re short on wine to go alongside the turkey, pop by the Tasting Room between 11am and 4pm on Christmas Eve to pick up your last couple of bottles!
And finally, to round off this very cheery post, the LWV team took some time off work to go for a little Christmas dinner of their own! I was sadly a little too under the weather to go but by all accounts, everyone was very happy to be there and enjoy some nice food and drink, rather than being the ones serving for once! To round off the final blog of the year, a touching comment from Henry, “I hope yours is the first birthday to get a mention in your blog-” oh yeah, I got a year older this week, forgive me for not shouting from the rooftops, “- hope you’re feeling better, there was an empty chair at the Christmas dinner.” Just give me a minute to stop tearing up, I’ll think of something witty to end this with in the New Year.
Until then, we at LWV wish you a very merry Christmas to all who celebrate, a peaceful couple of weeks if you don’t, and a very happy New Year!