Wed, 24 Jun 2020
The director of a local vineyard has spoken of the challenges the industry faces during lockdown.
Mark Darley heads Enborne Vineyards Limited, based in the West Berkshire village.
The firm is renowned for its All Angels range of sparkling wines, which has won multiple industry awards.
However, it has borne the brunt of the lockdown, like other wineries and suppliers across the UK.
The company has been forced to call off months of scheduled events and sales are down.
Mr Darley said: "Vineyard income comes from a variety of different sources, all of which were affected by covid and social isolation.
"Sales to restaurants, pubs, hotels, clubs, stopped – no customers.
"Sales to off-licences stopped – at least initially – vineyard tours stopped, cellar door sales stopped.
"Certain sales outlets such as supermarkets were still open, but only for those who already had supermarket contracts."
Fortunately, the restrictions were put in place in the middle of the year's wine harvest.
Enborne Vineyards had no need for grant funding and was able to sustain itself on its own resources.
Indeed, it has planted a sizeable new vineyard during the lockdown.
Mr Darley said: "There are broadly two sides to owning a vineyard.
"The first is keeping healthy vines and producing the best-quality grapes, so we were lucky with the timing of Covid.
"The early part of the year is when the vines are dormant and emerging from their recovery from the previous year's exertions, so fortunately the lockdown had little early impact.
"From mid-April onwards, however, things begin to pick up, first with bud-burst, then tying down the vines, growth selection and bud-rubbing in May, at which point we could have a team of up to 14 people in for two or three days in a row.
"We are lucky to have a very proactive and responsive industry body in WineGB and they swung into action and identified protocols that fitted the Government guidelines for social isolation, but enabled the work to continue in the vineyards.
"This all took time, of course, and I suspect that had Covid happened a few months later, there would have been significant delay in work to the detriment of this – and possibly also next year's – harvest as we struggled to find the best practices."
"The second aspect is producing and selling the wine.
"Again, we were lucky in that our 2019 harvest had just been processed and bottled before Covid, but there are stories of some vineyards not being able to get supplies of bottles.
"We deliberately don't have a contract with a supermarket, so our sales dried up for a time."
To make up for cancelled dates, the company has staged virtual wine-tasting evenings via the Hampshire Wine School and WineTimeLondon.
With English Wine Week kicking off on June 20, Enborne Vineyards will also be offering a virtual tour of its facilities over Instagram.
Mr Darley said: "The English wine industry is here to stay and Berkshire wines are muscling their way to the top, something of which we are extremely proud to be a part."