On 13th May 2020 the first vines were planted at Warehorne Vineyard. Over 15,000 vines were planted in a day by S J Barnes planting machine (pictured) operated by the Barnes brothers Sam, Wil and Tom (left to right).
The vines were planted in rows 1.2m (4 feet) apart with a gap of 2.4m between the rows. Many vineyards plant at a much higher density with 1.1m between the vines and 2.0m or even 1.8m row width but at Warehorne Vineyard we chose to give the vines more space and more light.
Vines take four years to come to fruition; they are planted with a root stock resistant to root diseases grafted to the clone of vine for the grapes to be produced; we have planted Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Pinot Meunier and Pinot Gris.
The first year’s growth is to establish the root, so it is pruned back leaving only two buds above the graft when the leaves have fallen off and the vine is dormant over winter.
The second year’s growth is to establish the trunk of the vine, so it is pruned back leaving only a trunk to the fruiting wire and a few buds beyond. The vine cane is then tied to the fruiting wire.
The third year’s growth is to provide a modest crop, normally no more that 15%, one or two fruiting canes are tied to the fruiting wire depending on the pruning method used.
The fourth year’s growth is to provide a full crop. Not all vines do well when first planted and need to step back a year if they are not vigorous enough for the next stage in their growth.
In 2021 we planted 2,000 Cabernet Noir vines and in 2022 we planted 8,000 Divico vines. These varieties are highly resistant to fungal diseases and only need to be sprayed with fungicide on an exceptional basis.
The vines need protecting after planting with a stake to cling to and a plastic guard to protect against rabbits.
At Warehorne Vineyard we also chose, for maintenance and esthetical reasons to sow slow growing grass in the alleyways and headland areas. The tractor in the centre of the picture is drilling the grass seed by an attachment which rotavates the soil, drills the grass seed into the soil and then rolls the ground flat.
To be ecologically smart we chose to use bamboo canes rather then the normal steel stakes to support the vine trunks. Not only is this much more environmentally friendly, but it is also cheaper and more sustainable.
We managed to acquire second-hand rabbit guards, pre-used by another vineyard, which enabled us to re-use the plastic to the end of its useable life instead of buying new.
After only a few weeks the vines sprung into life. They grew at an amazing rate, typically 2mm per day and as the grass germinated the vines poked out of the 60mm rabbit guards.
At Warehorne Vineyard we chose not to install trellising the first year, not least because you don’t have to but it also spreads the cost which is more expensive than planting the vines!
By mid-July most vines had reached the top of the bamboo cane 1.2m high, giving confidence that we have the right soil and environment for them.
We made sure we secured the vines to the bamboo with vine ties to keep them tidy and topped them when they reached 1.5m.
We started cutting the grass weekly, even although it is slow growing it was growing quickly due to the amount of natural fertiliser we used preparing the land for planting.
Over the winter and into early spring the vines are dormant, and the lengthy process of pruning takes place.
We worked tirelessly from December to March in all weather to get it done, lifting each vine guard and cutting back to second bud by hand.
Fortunately, we border Smallman’s Wood to the West which is simply stunning when the bluebells are out and there is nothing more cathartic than pruning on a bright and crisp spring day.
There is also a hidden valley to the North, where we intend to put a lookout at the top of the vineyard in years to come which will give panoramic views of the woods, hidden valley and over the Romney Marshes towards Rye fifteen miles in the distance. On a clear day you can even see all the way to Dungeness Power Station!
As soon as the temperatures started rising in April, growth was much more rapid than after planting in 2020; the roots had established, and the vines grew 4mm to 5mm daily. Unfortunately, this was a bit of a false start as we had late frosts which fortunately only affected 10% of the vines, killing off the majority of fresh shoots.
The unaffected vines had 4 to 6 shoots which needed to be reduced to one to form the permanent trunk of the vine for the rest of its life. Since there was a limited time to do the shoot selection, we contracted temporary workers who worked tirelessly for 6 days to complete the task. For the vines affected by the frosts we then did a second pass ourselves as these budded again about four weeks later.
The same company then installed the trellising which we decided to do in two stages; in the first stage the end posts and every other intermediate post was installed then later in 2021 missing intermediate posts were installed with a post every 6m (five vines).
By July 2021 many of our vines had grown to 2.4m tall and needed to be trimmed back to 2m, otherwise they would have broken in the wind. We also needed to encourage the vines to bush out to form a crown at the fruiting wire where the vine will be pruned in future years.
For our future pruning we have decided to try ‘single Guyot Pendelbogen’ which in layman’s terms is laying a single fruiting cane arching over two fruiting wires, the first at 80cm and the second at 1.0m above ground. If the fruiting cane is laid horizontally along a single fruiting wire it tends to have more growth at either end and by creating an arch this promotes equal growth (and fruiting) along the entire cane. Arching the cane also gives a greater length of fruiting cane, ideal for very vigorous vines such as ours where the distance between the buds is greater.
We are preparing our barn in readiness for a small winery, which is essentially a large wet room.
Initially we will sell most of our grapes to wineries and build up our own wine making capacity over five or six years.
As soon as we have our first wine to sell in the summer of 2023, a tasting room will be opened and we will welcome guests to sample our still red, white and rose wines. Our objective is to make the affordable wines for ‘normal’ occasions.
We are a family owned and run vineyard situated in the heart of the Kent countryside
We are not currently open for public visits but you can walk through our vineyard at any time using the public footpath.
If you see us do stop and say hello!
We pride ourselves on having a tidy vineyard - Tidy Vines Tasty Wines
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To join our Warehorne Vineyard volunteers group send me an email with your mobile number. I will add you to the Warehorne Vineyard WhatsApp group where you will recieve regular updates on all our activities.