I recently had the pleasure of doing a little working stint at Oxfordshire based Wyfold Vineyard, helping to re-trellis just a few of their 9000 vines as they look towards their summer growth spurt.
Not open to the public, and well hidden-away down some very tiny country lanes, the two hectare Wyfold site is part of the empire of Barbara and Tony Laithwaite, the couple behind leading mail order wine merchant Laithwaites.
Planted in the early part of the century on stone and gravel soils at an altitude of 100 metres, the cool climate site is home to just the classic Champagne grape varieties (Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier).
Used to create an exceptional multi-award winning sparkling wine since 2009, the range has now expanded to add a sparkling Rosé from the 2014 vintage for the first time.
Son Henry Laithwaite now runs the show on a daily basis alongside his business partner Ben Postlethwaite and all were present on the day to guide us through our tasks which, on the page, didn’t sound too taxing.
Merely being required to adjust several different trellis wire heights to direct the vines skyward, the generous springtime summer sun heat was both a blessing and a curse.
Like most vineyard work in the UK, payment came at the end in the form of a wonderful home-cooked meal supported by copious amounts of wine.
In addition there was the provision of musical entertainment in the form of ukulele based band Pure Fluke as well as the genial conversation of vineyard friends both old and new.
To top it all off we were basking in the late evening sun in the lovely surrounds of a vineyard, and any heat fatigue and other aches and pains instantly disappeared. All in all this was an insightful and rare visit to a vineyard not readily accessible, and another chance to directly help towards the success of English wine.
With thanks to Laithwaites for arranging this vineyard visit.