After a winter of hard pruning and tender attention, final preparations for the coming season are being made and the vines are already in bud. Here's Chief Vineyard Manager Jon Pollard's report on what's happening across Gusbourne's 90 hectares in West Sussex and Kent.
"The warm weather of the last week has really pushed the buds along. Bud burst began in the majority of Chardonnay on Wednesday 8 April. And a week later our Pinot Noir followed. Pinot Meunier isn't far off, at late woolly bud stage, just before the first two pink leaf tips start to separate. Tractors are now rolling in earnest with the first sprays of the season – fertiliser-spreading of organic chicken-manure pellets – plus mowing and mulching of prunings.
"Frost-watch is well and truly with us. The teams and I are keeping a close eye on the night-time temperatures going forwards. The danger zone is early to mid-May, so we'll be on guard until then. Across both sites, the frost fans are fuelled and ready to kick in automatically when the temp drops to +2 degrees C – these machines need to start moving the air before any drop below zero. We also have the Frostbuster, our mobile hot-air blower, primed and ready to go."
So, while spring encourages looking ahead, the next stage of under-vine cultivation must wait until the main frost risk has passed. Turning over soil too early now would create a mound, impeding the natural drainage of cold air, with air gaps releasing the warmth from the soil too quickly – particularly on our cross-slope planted vineyards (Cherry Garden, Bottom 17, Middle Barn South). As always at Gusbourne, winemaking involves the synthesis of nature and precision of technique.
While frost-watching keeps Jon Pollard and his teams ready to leap into their vehicles at 2.30am to get to the vineyards if temperatures fall, there are some compensations. Tending vineyards in the middle of the night means hearing nightingales sing. "If it weren’t for the frosts, I'd miss this amazing sound," says Jon. "Now I'm just waiting for my first cuckoo of spring."
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