Having been on the farm for over three years now, we have studied the land in great detail. This period of observation is key to permaculture design, as gaining a deep understanding of the land should be a prerequisite to long term decision making. Amongst many other things, we’ve paid particular attention to our natural water courses, frost pockets, hot areas and the quality of drainage in our fields. We didn’t know the full extent of our cultivation plans when we first moved here, but after realising we have the perfect conditions for it, the prospect of planting a Vineyard is now very real!
Monmouthshire has been a hotspot for perennial agricultural systems for hundreds of years. The high proportion of livestock grazing here means that much of the pasture in Monmouthshire has not been ploughed. As such, the mycelial networks are strong and soil health is generally good. Perennial systems (trees & fruit bushes) like mycelium-rich soils, whereas annual systems (vegetables & arable) prefer bacteria-rich soils. To learn more about the wonders of soil and how to keep it healthy, we recommend the fantastic book, ‘Teaming with Microbes’ by Jeff Lowenfels and Wayne Lewis.
Having established that we have good quality, mycelium rich soil, we dug a little further (literally) to investigate whether a particular field of ours was as suitable as it appeared to be for the planting of vines.. Vineyards need excellent drainage and nutrient rich soil, they also need good aspect, the right amount of sunlight and good air circulation. We were delighted to discover that our chosen field ticks all the right boxes!
Grapes, and in turn wine, has always been a passion of ours. We’re lucky enough to be surrounded by some fantastic vineyards in the local area; White castle Vineyard, Black Mountain Vineyard and Ancre Hill Vineyard. We also have in the heart of Abergavenny @chesterswinemerchants, who have brought their passion for wine to the area and have helped tremendously in the process of getting our vineyard project underway. Post-Brexit we’ll see a tax increase on imported wine, so hopefully this will create an opportunity for local British wine producers to deliver some interesting wines at a competitive price!
We’ll be planting approx 5 acres of vineyard this spring. It’s a huge project and one that should continue to develop for many, many years to come. The vines will take roughly 4 years to establish and if all goes to plan, we’ll be bottling our first wines in 2025! We’ve decided to go down the more ‘natural’ route with our wines, using natural yeasts and experimenting with maceration (skin contact) in the fermentation process. We will manage the vineyard in line with our permaculture principles and hopefully create a rich and diverse environment within the vineyard.
We’ve already got some soil samples back from our chosen ‘Hay Meadow’ field from 2017 and they show very positive results. It indicates good levels of magnesium, phosphorus and potassium and it has a fairly neutral PH. This week we’ve taken more in-depth soil samples which we are waiting to get back. These results will give us a deeper understanding of the nutrient level at different depths and in turn will allow us to make a decision on the ground preparation needed. We truly believe that the vineyard will lead us a step closer to our dream of whole plate & now whole glass farming.