Ever wondered what it would be like to handpick wine grapes? Kerry Vale Vineyard, on the Powys-Shropshire border near Churchstoke, is looking for volunteers next week to help it pick what owners Geoff and June Ferguson say will be a bumper crop.
The fine weather has led to good growing conditions for British vineyards and the eight-year-old vineyard is optimistic about its harvest and expects to pull approximately 10 tons of grapes from 6,000 vines.
“It’s an incredibly busy but exciting time at Kerry Vale at the moment,” said Geoff.
The vineyard has three grape varieties; Rondo, Phoenix and Solaris. Each grape variety ripens at different times which means the workload can be spread over a number of days or weeks.
At this time of year, Geoff continuously monitors the sugar/acidity levels in the grapes to ensure they are picked at just the right time. The most important criterion determining the time for harvesting is the acid level in the grapes. Too high and the wine is sharp to the taste, too low and it is flat and uninteresting.
Kerry Vale Vineyard likes the sugar content to be as high as possible which requires a good amount of sun, sometimes difficult to attain in the unpredictable English climate.
“Due to the variation in the seasons, harvest time varies from year to year,” explained Geoff. “This year, we are looking for volunteers to help us with harvesting on September 17/18. We will pick again on September 24/25 as the different varieties ripen.”
Kerry Vale Vineyard is a small, family run vineyard, so volunteers are essential at this time of year to bring in the vintage. The work is hard but satisfying for those who enjoy the outdoors.
“There’s nothing nicer than working in the vineyard on a sunny day,” said June. “If you have an interest in wine and wine making, what better way to understand how the process begins than in the vineyard where the grapes are grown.”
Volunteers will hand pick the grapes, cut them off the vines in whole bunches, then they will be put in trays and transported to the winery. Volunteer pickers will be asked to start in the vineyard from 8am and pick until 10.30 when coffee and biscuits/cake are served to provide energy to keep going until 1pm when they will be rewarded for their efforts with a hearty lunch and a glass of award winning wine.
Those enthusiastic volunteers who wish to pick for the remainder of the day are welcome to do so and will have tea and cake at 4pm. Anyone wishing to get involved is asked to call: 01588 620627 or email [email protected] .