Immediately after Hambledon Vineyard completed its fund raising, work started preparing for the planting of an additional 55,000 vines, which was nearly 4x larger than our existing vineyard. We had a big hiccup to start with. All through the fund raising process we had been checking with our pepiniere (vine supplier) that we were going to be in position to place a late order for the required number of vines. It is normal practice to place the order 6 months ahead, and we would be reduced to 6 weeks ahead. We checked with our supplier in December, January and February and were told on all occasions that we were fine for placing a late order at the end of March, as they had plenty of stock. Come the end of March, we contacted our pepinieres and were told the vines were not now available. Big gulp.
After a hastily organised visit from their export manager, and a stern talking to from the lady of the house, the problem was solved and vines duly ordered, but it made for a hairy few days. Some 32,000 Chardonnay, 14,000 Pinot Noir and 12,000 Pinot Meunier vines were duly dispatched to Hambledon, in bundles of 50 vines, with a wax seal to cover the graft between the vine and the rootstock.
The fields in question had been treated with appropriate soil balancing fertilisers in particular to provide potassium and magnesium enrichment. For English vineyards we tend not to need nitrogen, on the contrary.
When the vines arrived we placed them in a large, cool, dark, water bath, temporarily constructed in the wine cellar, where they spent 2-3 days soaking up water. We then trimmed the roots by hand (x 55,000!!!!!). Planting all happened over three days starting on Saturday 28th May.
The planting team sat on the back of a GPS guided tractor to make sure our vine rows were perfectly straight. The tractor planted a vine and metal vine support rod together in the same hole. The support rod provides a structure for the young vine to grow up until it begins to get enough strength to stand on its on two roots. Of the 55,000 vine rods some 8000 were re-used from our previous planting in 2004.
We also placed a “grow tube” on each vine to protect from rabbits and other pests, and to encourage warmth and growth. This had to be done manually – x55,000 tubes. Due the very dry weather in Spring 2011 we had to hand water all of the vines with around 3L of water each. We had just finished watering all 55,000 vines when the heavens opened and it rained for 2 weeks non stop (right in the middle of flowering on the existing 10 acre vineyard!!). The trellising structure for the new vines was erected during summer 2012. We made our own end posts for the trellising by cutting down to size 600 plus former BT telegraph poles (how’s that for recycling), and putting points on them to drive them into the chalk.
Through the summer of 2012 the newly planted vineyard was awash with beautiful red poppies.