After a career in PricewaterhouseCoopers followed by a variety of non-executive positions, Philip Wright, with his wife, Siggi, decided in 2014 to establish a vineyard on a 10 acre field to the back of their property in Hildenborough. This was brought on by the desire for a new challenge in a completely different area, involving a huge amount of learning and training on the job.
Having decided to start the vineyard, there followed several months of preparation, ploughing, drainage, sub-soiling, soil sampling and adding nutrients before the great day at the end of May 2015 and the planting of 5,000 vines, 44:44:12 Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Meunier covering about 4 acres, with room for about 3-4,000 more in the future.
In all of this we were assisted by Ian Phillips of Vineyard Solutions, who was always positive and pragmatic. Philip also took the course at Plumpton College on “An Introduction to Viticulture”.
Since the planting, trellises and wiring have been erected, Philip has learned to spray herbicides and fungicides, and we are both getting used to the rhythm of the grape-growing year. Pruning, shoot-thinning, bud-rubbing and tucking in (repeat twice or more), clipping and trimming (repeat), and finally leaf stripping and harvesting. With these processes and around 50 rows and over 6 kilometres of rows it’s hard work and only made possible with the assistance of teams of experienced vineyard workers from Vine Care UK at various key points in the calendar.
The early part of the year was taken up with pruning, with a team from Vine Care, followed by weeding, both by hand for the larger weeds eg thistles and fat hen, and also by spraying with Roundup under the vines.
After the polar frosts of 2017 there was much nervousness about the weather in late April/early June this year just after bud burst. However, the temperature never fell below 1.5° and the buds burst beautifully and healthily.
There then followed, from late May to early September, a regime of regular spraying by Philip against powdery and downy mildew and then later botrytis as well as flail mowing to keep the vine rows reasonably neat.
Over the same period, teams from Vine Care visited to carry out bud-rubbing, tying down, shoot-thinning, tucking in and leaf stripping.
In early August Philip hired a vine trimmer from Vitifruit, which made the vines look very neat and, together with the leaf stripping, opened out the grapes to the sun, of which this year there was plenty.
The harvest on 18 and 21 September described on the Home page was very successful and for Philip and Siggi made all the effort over the last five years worthwhile.
On to 2019.