PLAY

Update

Like so many vineyard journals ours is a little neglected, I dearly want to share the stories about what is happening here at the farm and how the wines are progressing, but time is always in short supply.

Since harvest finished back in October, the building project at the farm has been a hive of activity. We reached practical completion last week and with a small push, with fit out and landscaping, we look forward to opening in early August. In order to get the rooms, restaurant and shop and tasting room open, we do require some additional funding, the Tillingham Bond, which we launched this week, is our way of inviting our loyal followers to support us on our journey and in return, be repaid through wine and exclusive, priority  access to every release and use of the facilities here at Tillingham. If you would like to receive more information about the Bond click here to send us an email, and please ask for a pack to be sent out in the post, including your postal address.

We’ll be releasing 17 wines this year, primarily from the 2018 vintage. Two wines (PN18 & R) have already been released and subsequently sold out. We’ve just released another three (Rosé, White and End Grain), which have just been released, and already our second tranche is being prepared to be sent out from the winery to keep up with demand. We are thrilled and grateful for the reaction to the wines and hope very much that the next 12 wines meet with such a warm reception. We’ve been busy exporting too, with the wines now available in Australia, Norway, Sweden and France, with wine about to leave for Canada, before the end of the year we hope to add America, Denmark, Japan and Germany to our list.

At the farm, we have welcomed back cattle and sheep to new grazing leys that were sown in September, alongside our own meat, we have been busy growing veggies in the walled garden, herbs and salads and flowers are ready to start picking now. After planting 10,000 vines last year, we added another 26,000 this year, taking our total area to 20 acres under vine. In and around the vineyards, we have been busy planting trees and wild flower meadows.

In the space of a little over 12 months, it is remarkable just how much the farm has changed, how Tillingham has gone from nowhere to being enjoyed in some of my favourite wine bars and restaurants. With the farm opening its doors to the public this summer, I am looking forward to sharing our progress with you then. As well as winery and vineyard tours, and the rooms, we have a series of dinners, takeovers, yoga workshops and other classes, and even pizza nights already taking shape. We’ll be sending you updates as soon as dates are announced.

BW

HARVEST 2018

At the start of this growing season, the idea that 2018 could be the greatest vintage English Wine had ever seen, seemed unlikely: frosts had affected a number of vineyards and the prospect of another year where grapes would be in short supply seemed inevitable. In the end the opposite was true. Due to phenomenally good weather at flowering (mid-June) followed by a fantastic summer, not only was there a very large harvest, but one that would be picked relatively early and with above average ripeness.

As our vines were only planted in late May this year – we are reliant on buying grapes from a number of loyal local vineyards, and this year we added a couple more, including one Biodynamic vineyard (yay!). We had concerns with our own plantings, with no rainfall for over 8 weeks from planting. We held off from watering the vines, and hope that despite showing very little foliage, they got their roots down deep which will stand them in good stead for next season.

The amount of grapes produced this year in the UK was extraordinary, sadly, there were stories of grapes being left out for the birds, as every winery in England had reached maximum capacity, even with some making use of milk tankers and gigantic bag in box containers. Thankfully earlier this year, we managed to secure some EU funding through Defra and ordered a raft of new tanks. We also received a shipping container with 12 new Qvevri from Georgia. Due to delays in shipping, both the tanks and the Qvevri didn’t turn up until the middle of harvest, at times it was touch and go whether we would run out of space or not, and thanks to one of our growers, we managed to find some temporary capacity when things got tight.

In the end we made wine from a total of 10 vineyard sites and 13 grape varieties, and at times we had up to 30 different fermentations on the go. We pushed things more than we did last year, much more skin contact, carbonic maceration, zero sulphur, red wines and orange wines. The winery is packed to the rafters, and now most of the wines have finished their ferments and have started to settle, the true nature of the wines and of the vintage start to really reveal themselves. As a result of how good the vintage was, the innate quality of the wines across the board is really impressive, and thankfully, despite taking more risks with the wine making and biting off more than we could chew at times, we haven’t diminished any of the latent potential that the grapes had when they arrived.

Now we have to bide our time and watch the wines develop over the winter and into the spring and then gently start to shepherd the wines into bottle.

PLANTING

The first 6 acres of vines were successfully planted this week, a major milestone in the story of Tillingham, it marks the 2 years of planning to reach this point, as well as the exciting prospect of the grapes to come in 3 years from now.

I wanted to talk about the immediate build up to this moment, the way we have prepared the soil and the choices taken, which are part of a bigger picture and a cornerstone of our approach. The fields here have been farmed conventionally over the generations, our turn as custodians began in September last year. Although we have interesting soils and geology literally protruding through the top soil, the organic matter levels were low and the soil needed a helping hand. We introduced a large amount of compost and manure in addition to some trace elements: Boron, Zinc, Sulphur, Molybdenum and adjusted the soil pH with lime. The reason for this intervention of sorts is to help the soil get back to something it resembled prior to the industrialisation of agriculture, it’s not just about the elements and pH though….

In the wild, vines thrive in soils that are rich in humous and organic matter, and with extraordinary concentrations of soil microbes, this soil supports them as they climb over trees and shurbs to reach sunlight. In this humid and tangled environment their immune system works in conjunction with the microbially rich soil beneath their feet. An arable soil with a monocultural approach, is an alien environment for a vine, that’s why boosting organic matter and providing the right conditions for microbial life both above and below the soil are so important to us.

Using BD500, the Biodynamic preparation of manure fermented in the ground in a cow horn, is a way of seeding and re-awakening the microbial populations that would have been rife in these soils once upon time. Establishing cover crops last autumn, before direct drilling additional cover crops alongside the baby vines, will help to provide additional root habitats in the soil for the colonisation of microbes that will support the nutrition and immune responses of the vine. Which in turn will reduce if not eliminate the vines’ reliance on chemical fertilisers and pesticides.