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Equinox passes and stress commences

The March equinox has just passed and already my mind is focused on the last few stressful weeks of ripening Pinot Noir grapes before winter arrives.

Tomorrow we take our first grape samples to test sugar and acid levels. We are a few weeks away from harvest but we need to know how things are progressing. How much do sugar levels need to increase and how much does acidity need to drop before we are getting close to harvest? There is no precise point we are aiming for – we just want to get them ripe and full of flavour.

By now the grapes have been on the vines since flowering in spring and have become a part of our family. They feel like our children. We have nurtured them through the season. Removed leaves to let more light and air in and removed extra bunches so the chosen ones have the best chance of making it through to harvest. At harvest their work is done.

The feeling of attachment goes well beyond common sense. We love it when the days are hot and the nights cool because it helps them express themselves best. We fear for them when frost threatens or there is too much rain. We always handle them with care as they grow and mature. We would only ever pick them by hand when they are ready and always with gentle hands – never throw them in bin where they might smash out of their skin. To see them harvested by machine would be unbearable– hell no, these are our kids.

I try not to be grumpy this time of year but bear with me. I have just paid the bill for this year’s French oak barrels and all the bottling bills for last years vintage are due next month and the grass is growing too fast under the vines in this crazy wet year, there is botrytis about and I know we will get a frost or two before harvest.

Why do we do it I ask every year? But I know deep down that growing Pinot Noir on the edge and where there are no Pinot Noir vineyards anywhere further south in the world – is actually fun, challenging and rewarding.