It all feels a little formal, but we suppose proper introductions are important (even if you’d normally be saying hello to us from across a field). Through the Grapevine is going to be a space where we can update you with the goings on at LWV! Once a week you can read all about what Alice, Tom, Henry and the rest of the team are doing in the vineyards, the winery and the Tasting Room. Now that I’ve explained what this space is, let’s start talking about the stuff you actually want to read about.
Last week kicked off with the end of the fermentation process for the last Seyval and Phoenix blend we pressed this year (and if that sounds late to you, it’s because it is a little!). Due to this year’s unpredictable summer, vineyards up and down the country have been holding off from harvesting to give the grapes ample time to ripen and for their sugar levels to increase as much as possible. Here at LWV, we aim for the grapes to reach a sugar level of fifteen plus (when measuring using a refractometer, you can translate the brix levels, a.k.a. the sugar, into potential alcohol, which is important as here in the UK current law states that wine must have an alcohol percentage of at least 8.5% for it to be sold as such - anything lower than this has to be marketed as a ‘wine-based’ drink, which doesn’t quite have the same ring to it really).
Cam, our recently fully qualified viticulturist, was left in charge of this task, which I helped with - and by help, I mean I cleaned some tubes, and held some tubes, and moved the tubes around when asked. Now that the last of the wine has completed this process, we leave it in the tanks before we do some further checks to ensure we are happy with what we have produced. We’ve learnt over the years that patience is an important quality to have in this business, and this part of the process is probably the hardest part for Henry, Tom and Alice, who would very much like to know exactly what our finished product looks (and tastes) like now - and who can blame them?
With the wine tucked in for the winter, and with pruning still a little in the distance (Cam did explain this to me, I promise I know why it is still in said distance, it’s just too early for my mind to recall it) Tom, Cam and I have been making our way through the jobs that get put to one side for this time of year - some people would call it putting off the menial tasks, we call it prioritising! And one task that comes back around each year without fail is amending posts around the vineyards.
If you’ve ever been to our lovely Tasting Room - we may be biased but the views from our patio are some of the best in all of East Yorkshire, some may even say in the whole of the UK (it’s me and Henry, we’re the ‘some’ I’m on about) - you may have noticed that our oldest vines are held up with wooden posts. While these are admittedly very pretty and conjure images of the traditional vineyards that decorate the gentle slopes of Bordeaux, they are not the most resilient. On average, according to Tom, our wooden posts tend to have a life span of five or so years. Now that doesn’t sound too bad, does it? But compare that to the metal posts, which can hold for twenty-five years, it’s hard to argue in defence of the pretty wooden posts.
So me and Cam began the ever-thrilling, number crunching job of counting up exactly how many posts we need across all of our vineyards in South Cave. In case you weren’t aware, we now have three vineyards across the farm: Mount Airy; Thirty Acre (which can be split into a further four, smaller sections); and Dennis’ Field (please don’t judge the titles, these fields were not named all those years ago with the intention that someday we’d be telling the public about them). In some of the vineyards there aren’t too many posts that need replacing, but on the newer sites (we’re looking at you, Dennis’ Field) there are still some rows that need posts putting in! Purchasing as many posts as we need means that the process will take some time, but hopefully by next spring you will see some lovely new shiny posts popping up across the farm.
Henry, our not-retired retiree, headed down south to the Vineyard and Winery Show in Kent. Now, while you will rarely find us complaining about our Yorkshire location, it does come with its own unique set of challenges. Colder weather and being a longgg way from most other vineyards and wineries being the biggest. Naturally, a lot of the fun events we love to attend are hosted in the south, where the majority of English wine is produced. Unfortunately, this makes it difficult for us to go, due to the length of time it takes to travel there, and we often end up staying overnight to get the most out of the trip.
I say unfortunately, it is for Tom and Alice, who have a bit too much to do to take two consecutive days off. This means Henry is often left to the task of venturing off on these occasions, with his wife Heather in tow. When I asked how it went, he said that there was plenty to see and plenty more you’d want to buy. “We need everything, posts and wire for the trellises, a bigger press and bottling gear…” at this point I asked him if he was reciting his Christmas list. Essentially, it was something akin to attending Hamleys at Christmas, but less children and bigger toys. “The trouble is,” he said, “the more you see the more you want…”
“So it’s a good job I left the cheque book at home.”
Once he returned from his journey to the south, Henry cracked on with a few wintry jobs of his own. His reasons being that he can then justify going away for a bit during the coldest months early next year (we promise, Henry is working because he wants to). The vines in Dennis’ field are still quite young, and probably won’t produce a strong harvest for another couple of years. As a man who always likes to get the next job done, Henry has made a start on pruning these vines back for the winter (if you’re ever walking up to Spook Woods and spot him feel free to stop for a chat – he’s always happy to talk to people about what he’s up to!) with his dog Brian.
Meanwhile, Alice has been super busy (you’ll soon learn that everyone at LWV is super busy each week, it’s sort of what we do) with some fantastic events and opportunities! Where once winter represented a bit of down time for us, Alice now has her hands full organising some wonderfully wintry events in our Tasting Room. This week’s main event was a garland workshop, using our own lovely willow - which you can find growing below our Mount Airy vineyard. These workshops are the perfect way to get into the festive mood, with Alice at hand to help you make the most beautiful wreath (trust me, these wreaths are some of the most Instagrammable decorations I’ve ever seen), you can have a laugh with everyone else attending, or go along with your own friends and family if you prefer! If this sounds like something you want to get involved in, we have a Festive Christmas Garland event on Saturday 9th December with spaces still available!
As a small business we pride ourselves on being able to deliver to locals by ourselves, and even now you will see Alice, Henry and Tom driving around East Yorkshire dropping off orders to your door (this in my head plays somewhat like a visit from an A-class celebrity, or Postcode Lottery). We also prefer to deliver to our local stockists ourselves, the latest of whom we are working with being Sewells in South Cave. We love being able to supply our wine to businesses who care about other local businesses, so we are really excited by this opportunity and look forward to having our wine reach new people!
While we try not to get too excited when new opportunities come our way, we couldn’t help but share this fun snippet with you all. Alice had a very interesting meeting with a local hotel group, who are looking to incorporate vineyard experiences (from little old us!) into some of their packages. Now if this sounds vague, it’s because it is, but we can’t share much more - all we can say is watch. this. space.
To round off the week, Alice attended Cave Castle’s Christmas Light Switch On. As I’ve already said, we do love all things local. We also love Christmas, so really this event is a sort of dream for us! It was great to see so many people and chat to new customers as well as faces we know and love. It was all rounded off with a glorious firework display and the illumination of South Cave in festive streetlights - honestly, our lives do feel a bit like a Hallmark movie sometimes!