Warden Abbey Vineyard – Janet Rose

In May we were pleased to welcome Janet Rose from Warden Abbey Vineyard, especially as she had brought samples of wine for us to taste. Vines were first planted at Warden Abbey in medieval times by the Cistercian Monks. They themselves mostly drank beer, but the wine they produced was used for the sacrament and for their guests and pilgrims, hundreds of travellers stayed with them every year. They also used the wine for preserving …

The land on which the vineyard sits now belongs to the Whitbread family and in 1985 Lady Jane of Whitbread decided to plant up the modern vineyard. The vineyard was leased to Bedfordshire Rural Communities Charity in 2010 and the vines are now cared for by volunteers and community groups. Warden Abbey vineyard is a community and educational resource. Not only does it produce award winning wines that have secured this historic vineyard but it also provides learning and skill development and social and therapeutic horticulture for various local organisations and schools, as well as volunteering opportunities and support into employment.

Jane gave us an overview of the horticultural year of the vine from the pruning of the canes into winter to leave to canes to fruit that year and two for the year after. The effect of the sun is maximised as the vines are planted on a south facing slope. Later on the canes are tied in using a sapling mechanism. There are currently 3,200 older vines and 800 newer ones which have been planted recently in the four acre site. European vines are planted onto American wood stock to ensure that the vines are immune from the mites which attack the roots. When the vines have reached about six feet high the tops off to promote fruiting. Careful note is taken of the number of bunches produced and the sugar level of the grapes is tested throughout the year in order to that a decision can be taken on when to harvest, how many crates will be needed plus the number of lorries for transportation etc. The Harvested grapes are taken to Box hill in Surrey to be made into wine.

The vinyard produces two white wines – “The Reformer” named after John Howard and “The  Nonconformist” named after John Bunyan. We sampled the latter and also tried the vineyard’s sparkling wine. All three are available in various local retail outlets. At the end of her talk Jane gave the answers to questions she had posed at the beginning and so we found out that there are approximately 600 grapes in a bottle of wine and that there are 502 vineyards in England and Wales. However, in terms of acreage, all of them put together are smaller than some of the smaller vineyards in Chile who are producing wine on a huge commercial scale. What a fascinating evening and many thanks to Jane for entertaining us throughout. 

Our next meeting will be on 19Th June when Adam Pasco will talk us through ‘Easy ways to better Gardening’

Linda Truscott

New members visitors are always welcome. For more information contact Linda Truscott on 01234 270747

www.biddenhamgardenersassociation.org.uk

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