Wednesday, 8 July 2015

The journey from grape idea to winemaking

Idea -- research -- selection -- purchase -- delivery -- weather -- field -- planting -- learning -- growing -- harvesting -- experimenting -- production -- aging -- tasting -- labeling -- drinking -- marketing -- selling -- writing... that's perhaps a typical approach to an idea.  Nope. Not in this case. In this case, we just jumped right in.  Ready to come along for the journey?  Here we go.

 Viti. Vini. Vici.

"Viticulture (from the Latin word for vine) is the science, production, and study of grapes. It deals with the series of events that occur in the vineyard. When the grapes are used for winemaking, it is also known as viniculture." Someday we may be lucky enough to have to change the title of this blog from Viticulture to Viniculture. For now, we are being modest.

Exhibit on climate change at the Franklin Institute in
Philadelphia corroborating my theory.
It all started with the notion that climate change is causing our climate here in Ireland to moderate while the climate in southern France, Spain, Italy and Greece is becoming more arid.  The climatologists say we are going to have less rain and a longer growing season. Meanwhile, the Mediterranean countries are getting hotter and the latitude at which certain crops grow is moving northward. Grapes are highly temperature sensitive and grow in a narrow band of latitude north and south of the equator.

The choice species have when conditions change is moving further north or adapting. Most things don't adapt well, so as the desert expands northward into Europe, food production including wine will have to shift, too.  That's where we come in.

We learned that growing wine grapes used to be popular in Great Britain. Hey, if they can grow grapes and make wine in England, we should be able to do it here much more readily with the remains of the Gulf Stream bathing our shores. Of course there may be a reason why they fell out of favour in GB, but we didn't actually go about this very logically. 

We did a bit of research (ie, google) and learned that there is one vineyard already established in Ireland. Lusca Irish wine comes from Llewelyn Orchard. They make apple cider, too, which I would like to try making as well. Our apple orchard has suffered some disease setbacks but we did produce a fair bit of apples this year for the first time. We attribute that to the bees that our friend has introduced to our land. They should be good for grapes, too.

We've begun our journey by jumping into it with 10 vines -- 6 red and 4 white.  These vines were selected for producing grapes outside without cover in our specific climate. And they are supposed to make a decent wine.  We added to that a pile of books, and are now well on our way.  We actually got it somewhat backwards. Got the grapes, planted them, then got the books. But so far we've learned that grapes generally:
  • Like a maritime climate
  • Like relatively poor soil
  • Like to be on a hillside 
  • Like facing south
Well, we got lucky and, as you can see, it's sloping land with poor soil facing south above the sea.  Check.

The plot is named Daria's Vineyard.  The label, which we won't need for a few years yet, is yet to be developed.  I was thinking Happy Whale, but that space is occupied by the company Vineyard Vines. I think I'll need to be more creative. The cool thing here is we have years to work on brand development before we actually have enough grapes to harvest.

Here is the vineyard:

And here are the books:

Now let's get down to business while the grapes grow for the next three or so years. Hmm, I wonder if we should plant an olive tree or two, too? Maybe some figs? Lemons? We already have an avocado in the greenhouse.