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Becoming a Vintner: An Introduction

Becoming a Vintner: An Introduction

Jordan Nicholls

What was the last thing you did in the heat of the moment? Buy some new jeans? Book tickets to see a band? I got a vineyard…

In the UK we have these communal spaces called allotments, where people can grow whatever they want and have more green space than just their garden. My girlfriend’s had one of these spaces, called a plot, for about a year now. I help out where I can but it’s not necessarily my thing. When a local started chatting to us back in April he mentioned there were some plots free. “There’s a vineyard down there that needs looking after” he said casually. After an hour of debating if I could take it on myself, I’d made the arrangements needed. I was now a vineyard ‘owner’.

The previous ‘owners’ of this double plot had been growing vines for nearly eight years. Back in January, they’d decided it was too much, and let it go. I’ve always enjoyed wine but never really appreciated or understood it. I’ve never learnt about the different varieties, growing styles or how to make it. I wanted to learn about it literally from the ground up.

I’m not a WSET student yet and am at the very early stages of a wine tasting life, but I’ve been growing my vineyard now for a few months and am starting to get the hang of it. It’s not big, but it’s enough to appreciate how hard wine growing is, and how much effort and love goes into every bottle I drink.

I’ve got four varieties of grape, Madeleine Angevine, Segura, Rondo and Sauvignon Blanc. Because they didn’t get their winter prune they’re currently quite a mess and growing all over the place. The first thing I learned about wine growing, nature always wins.

I’ve had to learn about the structure of vines, how they grow, what nutrients they should have and how to trim them properly. It’s not easy as they’re not necessarily trained but given time I think there will be some order to the chaos.

What I hope to do on this journey is not only learn about wine in general, but also about British winegrowers and makers. To understand how they grow wine in our challenging climate. The stereotypes about British teeth and top hats aren’t true, the weather however is generally poor. How does this affect a British wine and how do people overcome it? How will I overcome it?

So, here’s the plan. You’re all going to join me through the harvest season. Watching me succeed and fail… probably more of the latter! I’ll share this journey through videos and written pieces so you get a good insight into what’s happening. You’ll see the good, the bad and the ugly of the experience. What could possibly go wrong?