How are Ridgeview grape vines coping in the hot British Summer?

Written by Matt Strugnell – Ridgeview Vineyard Manager

With the current amazing weather in the UK, we are often asked: “how are the grape vines are coping in the heat?” According to our weather forecaster, this has been the driest period from 1st June since 1921. We are thankful that grapevines have an amazing ability to grow their roots in search of water, which is currently helping maintaining their thirst.

The first symptoms we would see if the vines were becoming drought stressed, is a slowing down in vegetative growth. Well that certainly hasn’t been the case this year, quite the opposite in fact. We have had to work harder than ever to keep the vine canopy tucked in and trimmed. So, it seems that the vines are very happy growing in these conditions at the moment. It has also meant that the risk of fungal diseases is greatly reduced with dry rather than our often common damp conditions.

However if these hot, dry conditions continue, it may have an effect on berry maturity during ripening. This is one reason why we have had to start fruit thinning, or green harvesting (cutting off selected fruit now, before it matures). The vines on most of our sites are currently carrying a very large crop. In the unlikely event that the vines start becoming water stressed, the process of ripening will become secondary to the vines’ need to preserve water. On the other hand, a very large crop can also be difficult to manage if the weather becomes cool and wet, because there is a lot of fruit for the vine to ripen. So we can remove bunches at this stage to maximise the longer term potential; it is very important for us not to be too greedy!

With all of those points in mind, this is one of the most incredible years of grape growing I have seen in my career!

(Matt)

You can visit our Ridgeview vineyard, and the see the grapes ripening on one of our upcoming general tours, or enjoy a glass of sparkling on a visit to our Ridgeview wine garden, on the edge of the vineyard which is open every day. It is looking like an early harvest so come visit whilst we still have grapes on the vines!

 

How does snow affect the vines?

By Ridgeview Vineyard Manager Matt Strugnell

In this cold and snowy week, how are our vines coping with ‘The Beast from the East?’ Thankfully our vines are fully dormant (asleep) at the moment. The coldest spot at Ridgeview was -10.0 C early on Wednesday morning, and probably not enough to cause any damage. Another drop of 5 degrees, and we might start to see a few buds being damaged, but it would take a further 10 degree drop to start seeing significant problems. There is a general rule that if the annual minimum temperature falls below -20 degrees C, more than once a decade, then problems occur. Some cultivars are more cold hardy than others; Chardonnay is slightly more winter hardy than Pinot noir for example. But overall, in Southern England, periods of extreme cold are fairly uncommon.

Fortunately most of our pruning is completed which could be cold and tricky in this weather. I don’t expect these cold temperatures to have an effect on budburst, or indeed the timing of the coming season. Grapevines, like most fruit crops do require a certain amount of chilling over winter, to kick start the next growing season. So budburst is really more about how the seasonal temperature during second half of March and early April is. Of course, as the buds start to swell, and the new shoots for this year’s crop emerge, this is the time we have to start being vigilant for Spring frosts, which, whilst not causing long term injury to the vines, can impact this year’s crop. There will be more about what we do to protect our vines in spring  in the next update.