Our new vineyard is set within the walled garden here at Carlton Towers.

It has its own microclimate, with the walls providing shelter from the wind. They also radiate heat and reflect sun back to the plants; both elements being essential for grapes to ripen fully. The enclosed warmer environment also provides some protection from very low temperatures during the winter and potentially harmful early frosts.

We have chosen two cool climate grape varieties to grow: Auxerrois Colmar (white grape) and Pinot Noir, (black grape). Our plan is to blend these together and make a sparkling white wine. The skins of the Pinot Noir variety will be removed prior to fermentation, as it is the skin that gives the colour to red and rosé wines.

Our vines have been planted over the past two years and in the early stages restricting the top growth of the vines, including removing any small grapes, is important to help encourage a strong root system. The long dry spell in the summer of 2018, will have helped to get the roots extending in search of water.

In subsequent years, if just left to themselves, the vines will naturally produce large quantities of stems and leaves and lots of small bunches of grapes. A system of careful pruning is therefore needed to help ensure that each vine yields the optimum numbers of high-quality grapes. Excess foliage must also be removed to ensure good air flow around the grapes to help prevent disease, as well as ensuring sun gets onto the grapes to ripen them. As with other crops, attention needs to be paid to ensuring that the vines get adequate nutrients and water and are kept free from pests, diseases and competing weeds.

So, we are really at the start of our exciting journey to produce our own wine – we still have to think of a name to call it, choose a bottle, design the labels etc. But within a few years we look forward to sampling our first vintage!