In the pioneering days, those looking to set up a vineyard would have headed across the Channel to established wine regions in search of the necessary tools for the trade, today, however, as the area under vine in England and Wales grows, so does the network of local businesses on hand to support the sector and visitors to this year’s National Fruit Show will have noticed an increased viticulture presence this year.
Alongside specialist machinery supplier NP Seymour’s fabulous English wine tasting and Horsepower’s Landini vineyard tractor launch, well-known agricultural and horticultural suppliers, Agricare, also used the two-day fruit event to showcase its new Vinevale collection.
Profiled in the October edition of Vineyard magazine, Agricare dipped its toe into the viticulture sector in 2013 after supplying Gusbourne Estate with a fleet of Infaco Electrocoup electronic pruning shears. Since then the family-run business has serviced and supplied Electrocoups to a number of English vineyards, including the renowned Nyetimber estate.
With an increasing number of vineyards approaching the company for supplies, this year Agricare has taken a considered shift towards researching and developing a dedicated vineyard offering and its new Vinevale collection intends to provide growers with access to the latest technologies, from uniquely designed vine guards, to tying machines and long-lasting vine posts.
The Plantex UK branch of Agricare, which was created in 2017 to look after irrigation, spraying systems and hydroponics, is also developing its offering for vineyards and is currently trailing its innovative flipper frost protection system at NIAB EMR in the UK’s only dedicated research vineyard.
Also featured, editor Victoria Rose travelled to Denbies Wine Estate in Dorking, Surrey, to see the UK’s only mechanical grape harvester at work. With 16 grape varieties spread over 265-acres, Denbies is the largest single estate vineyard in the country and is the only estate to warrant such a machine.
Only used to harvest grapes for Denbies’ classic collection range of still wines (sparkling wine requires grapes to be hand harvested) the Braud SB 60, manufactured by New Holland, uses a patented SDC shaker and basket collection system to remove fruit from the vines without causing damage to the plants.
While the initial investment may be high, the mechanical grape harvester is worth its weight in gold when it comes to tackling the issues of labour availability and rising wage costs. An issue which became more important this year as the bumper grape harvest needed more hands and more time than ever.