May – Operation Boujies

It’s a critical night at the vineyard tonight. The buds have burst, some are even on 3rd and 4th leaf, but a frost is forecast. Those showing leaf could be damaged at about zero degrees, the buds can stand a little below this. If you don’t take measures you can loose all of your crop.

So it’s Operation Boujies in the Surrey Hills. (A Bouji is basically a large candle in a tin.) They’ve been spaced along the rows and orchard burners have been put at the end of them, and there’s also a big blower to throw out some warm air. But of course someone has to get up and light the candles – all at the opportune moment!

There’s a thermometer on the vineyard, in a high-ish spot. It’ll send a text when the temperature starts to get near dangerous and the aim is to get to the site and light the equipment to raise the temperature before it’s too late. Easy!?

Well, it’s not. It’s hard work and sometimes emotional. To start with the Boujies are heavy to carry up each row, so you walk the rows multiple times to get them placed. (I wish I had a pedometer today.) Then in the dead of night your phone goes and you rush to light them all, again walking up and down. You’ll do everything to save your crop, which you spent the cold, incessant winter of 2013 pruning and nurturing. If you have to you’ll improvise and use the sprayer on the back of the tractor, driving it round, blowing a bit more air. Again, all in the dead of night.

When you drink a glass of wine in the comfort of your home or a pub, you don’t tend to think of the pain and emotion that’s gone into its production. The 2013 harvest isn’t just about 2013. When you prune in 2012, you think of the suitable cane for 2013. The years before that have also been about growing a healthy, productive vine for the future. Then the winemaking process takes you into 2014…

The first vines at Albury Vineyard were planted in 2009. The first bottle of sparkling should be on sale in 2014. It’ll definitely be a moment of celebration when we’re able to taste the hard work.

May the force be with the team this evening!

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