Friday, 1 November 2013

Global wine shortage averted by north Wales vineyard

Pant Du vineyard in the Nantlle Valley is the most northerly commercial vineyard in Wales. Planted six years ago, this is the first season for a bumper crop due to great growing weather through summer and autumn making up for the slow start of a bitterly cold spring. The harvest came in on 30th October, later than usual as Richard Wyn Huws gambled on the weather, holding out for the grapes to reach the right level of sweetness. Good job the previous week’s storm missed north Wales.

Every day Richard had been out with his refractometer to measure the Brix (Degrees Brix or °Bx), the official scale for sweetness. Less than 17 and the result would limit production to just Rosé (Rhosliw) but for Red he needed over 17.  A blob of juice was squeezed onto the gadget. The degree to which the fluid refracted the light, taking account of the temperature, was measured and the reading came back 18.9. Time to pick with rain clouds moving in over Cardigan Bay.

A dozen friends and family snipped away with secateurs filling buckets with dark Rondo grapes, some of them already turning towards raisins. Full buckets were emptied into stackable boxes and these in turn loaded onto a trailer pulled between the rows by quad bike. Four tonnes of Rondo, enough to make 3,200 bottles. This Welsh contribution will go a small way to reversing the global decline in wine production over recent years.

The high risk decision to create a vineyard this far north has been vindicated! With hindsight Richard said he would have made more use of Rondo in preference to other varieties that struggle to ripen with our growing conditions. As for the terroir, Richard was stumped for the Welsh word, but said the glacial nature of the valley had deposited a mineral rich, well draining soil at his end of the valley. Light coloured fragments of slate had been used as a weed suppressing mulch at the base of the vines but more importantly the slate reflects the sunlight onto the underside of the grapes as well as holding warmth like a storage heater.

Bottles are due back in April and are likely to sell out fast. Buy early or be disappointed!

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