When we finished building our house last October and moved to the vineyard to live, we imagined a bucolic sort of existence, surrounded by vines and animals, a life of leisure – at least I did. The reality is very different. Vineyards are ravenous when it comes to funding, and once you start there’s no going back. You just finish paying the contractors for picking, and you get the account from the contractors for pruning. No sooner will that have been paid, when there’s an account for something else. It’s interesting to note that 20 per cent of the wages’ accounts relate to government-legislated costs. Politicians don’t think we’re grown-up enough to negotiate holidays, or holiday pay, or work-related gear, or sickness pays, or bereavement leave, so they tell us what we must and can’t do. But at least we’re providing plenty of employment in the region; injecting cash into the local economy.
The frightening expense is the list of new equipment needed, if we are to progress as a top-class vineyard growing the best grapes possible in our 30 acres of planet. The best winemakers say good wine is made in the vineyard, so it’s an investment in the quality of what we get to drink several years hence. Spraying needs to be done at crucial intervals, not just when convenient to the local contractor. So we need our own sprayer. Then we need a new tractor which can take a two-row sprayer. We also need a mulcher which can pick up the prunings, mulch them up and spit them back over the vineyard. If they’re left to lie around and rot they’re not only untidy, they allow disease to get into the vines. We’re in the process of installing a fertigation tank which is, as it sounds, a tank from which you can fertilise and irrigate the vines simultaneously. We’ve just finished building a wash-down area with sump, overhead hoses, concrete pad and grills. When we emerged from the meeting with Nick and Rowan with the shopping list, Colin forlornly asked where on the list was the money tree. “You’re the money tree, darling,” I said, “we shake you and it falls out.”
Luckily he loves his job. Fortunately there’s nothing else we’d rather be doing; nowhere else we’d rather be. And hey, at the close of the day when you settle down with the first glass of wine, it’s all worth it.