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English vineyards escape flood damage

Published:  13 February, 2014

The wettest weather in over 100 years has had little effect on English vineyards.

Free-draining soil and slope-planting mean many producers have avoided floods in the vineyard but wet weather has made it harder to prune. Met Office figures suggest December and January combined are the wettest since records began in 1910.

Simon Bladon, owner of Jenkyn Place vineyard, Hampshire, said: "The free-draining Greensand, on which Jenkyn Place lies, has meant that the water is continuing to drain down to the valley bottom. Unfortunately this area is severely flooded but luckily we therefore do not think the vines will experience any adverse effects to the rain."

Camel Valley's Bob Lindo said he's lucky to be on the side of hill. "The land is free-draining and rain also drains naturally down the slopes into the river Camel and we have a wetlands field below the vineyards," he said.

"We leave the grass long in the winter to prevent erosion and we have purposefully kept tarmac and concrete areas above the vineyards to an absolute minimum." 

Richard Lewis, Chapel Down viticulture manager, said the only issues have been operational. "The heavy rain this winter has not really caused too much of an issue in our Chapel Down vineyards, other than trying to get our pruning done and generally moving around, as they are naturally free draining being on slopes and not sitting in hollows or on low lying flat land."

Lewis plans to mitigate any soil compaction and nutrient leaching with subsoil and organic composts. "This should help aerate the soil, add back nutrients and provide additional organic matter which will improve the soil structure," he said.

Jenkyn Place's Bladon added: "Pruning is currently on-going, with no real problems caused by the rain. The only downside, which doesn't affect the physical pruning itself, is that we are unable to get tractors onto the vineyard to pick up and dispose of the prunings, so they are still on the ground."

Nyetimber's head winemaker Cherie Spriggs said this was the best time in a vine's cycle to have bad weather. The vineyard famously abandoned the 2012 vintage due to wet weather but this was largely due to rain in the summer months.

"Nyetimber is planted exclusively on slopes and the soil is free-draining, you have to manage vines well especially in a cool climate," finished Spriggs.