The harvest is well underway at Halfpenny Green Vineyards in Bobbington, – with the wine soon set to be on its way.
Volunteers arrived on the farm from yesterday morning to start picking the grapes, following an apparent season of what appear to have been good growing conditions.
The vineyard, which is approaching its 35th year, was treated to several heatwaves throughout the summer, which made up for the intermittent gloomy weather.
Martin Vickers, who owns Halfpenny Green, says because of an early heatwave everything is running early.
He insists it’s ‘exciting’ times but it can be nerve-racking approaching the harvest, which will see 15 varieties of grape pulled in total.
“Every year is different, said Mr Vickers. “We’re coming up to 35 years and there’s never any consistent pattern.
“It is looking like a really good year, we’re running between 10 to 14 days early. Everything is early because of the early heatwave. There was a bit of a problem in late April with quite serious air frost. We had a little bit of damage but nothing serious.
“Usually September is a little warmer but next week is going to be a bit better.
“We’re more than happy with how things have gone. It’s one those – we had three heatwaves that were very short but did the trick.”
Farmer Mr Vickers had the vision for Halfpenny Green 30 years ago – he wanted to plant a vineyard that would one day match continental sites. Today, he manages 30 acres of vines and produces award-winning wines crafted by his son Clive.
A family business, the vineyard features a shop, restaurant, deli and tea room, which are run by Clive’s wife Lisa, and offers a great day out for visitors.
For the coming weeks, grapes will be hand-picked, cut off the vines in whole bunches before being transported to the winery where the business is done. Pickers descended on the vineyard from 9am yesterdayon Monday morning.
Mr Vickers added: “All of our grapes are picked by volunteers. We’ve got a good following of local people, mostly retired, who over the years just love coming along and helping out.
“It’s a gathering of old friends every year. We go for five weeks and they all have a lunch at the end and a good get-together. All picked by hand, we’ve got 15 different varieties to pick.
“It is an exciting time. It can always be a little bit nerve-racking because you’re hoping there’s no late disease coming in – which we haven’t had, luckily – this year they’re nice and clean and there’s not too many birds around.”
From a medium white Black Country Gold to a full-bodied Rondo red, Halfpenny currently stocks wines ranging from £9.99 to £29.99 and are available online.
All of the wines the vineyard sells are available to drink straight away but will improve with keeping up to five years.
Elsewhere in the county, Kerry Vale Vineyard, west of Church Stretton, on the Shropshire border is optimistic about this season’s harvest.
It expects to pull in 10 tons of grapes from its 6,000 vines – a similar amount to last year’s yield.
The six-year-old vineyard has three grape varieties; Rondo, Phoenix and Solaris.
But with the grapes ripening at different times it means the workload can be spread over a number of days and weeks.
Owner Geoff Ferguson said: “It’s an incredibly busy but exciting time at Kerry Vale at the moment.
“Due to the variation in the seasons harvest time varies from year to year. This year we will start harvesting from Monday or Tuesday. We will then pick again on September 25 or 26 as the different varieties ripen.”
At this time of year the sugar and acidity levels in the grapes will be constantly monitored 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. If it is too high then 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.
Run by husband and wife team Geoff and June Ferguson, daughter Nadine and son-in-law Dan, the vineyard is appealing for volunteers to come forward and help with picking the grapes.
Mrs Ferguson added: “There’s nothing nicer than working on the vineyard on a sunny day. If you have an interest in wine and wine making, what better way to understand how the process begins than on the vineyard where the grapes are grown?”
For more information on the two vineyards go to www.halfpenny-green-vineyards.co.uk or www.kerryvalevineyard.co.uk