Bella and Steven Spurrier planted the first vines at Bride Valley Vineyard, Dorset, in 2009. They produce delicious English sparkling wines from their 10 hectares of Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier and Chardonnay grapes. It hasn’t been an easy ride but the chalky slopes of Dorset are perfect for the vines as they are now all flourishing!
The vineyard manager Graham Fisher has been there since near the beginning and is committed to managing the vineyard using minimal intervention and more ecological methods. Strips of phacelia and wildflowers line the vines to increase biodiversity and predation of moths, meaning most years they don’t spray against Light Brown apple moth. They have been experimenting with using parasitic wasps as a biological control method. They use an undervine weeder, and are working on ways to increase the efficiency of this tool and therefore justify not using chemicals/herbicides and, even have their own sheep to graze amongst the vines, providing free fertiliser and chomping down the grasses.
Graham was immediately taken with using Sectormentor to help him manage the vines. He didn’t have the time or patience to note down and then type up bud counts, bunch numbers, or document different experiments he was doing. Luckily Sectormentor solved this for him, now he can count bunch numbers, pruning weights and more with a quick tap of the phone. Then once back at the office immediately he can compare pruning weights for different blocks and varieties of vine, predict yield for the year ahead combining this years and previous years data.
Here’s a Q & A with Graham on how data contributes to vineyard management at Bride Valley:
How did you manage the vineyard before using Sectormentor? Like lots of people, with a notebook and pen and as a consequence I have lots of notebooks squirrelled away.
How important are data and tools in the vineyard to you? Very, the ability to compare things like yield per vine, per block historically allows me to see how the vineyard is performing and in the case of yield trials whether they have been successful or not.
Do you think it’s important for vineyards to collect data? Absolutely, without collecting data it would be impossible to assess the success or otherwise of the vineyard and what the impact of the viticultural practices is on the viability of the vineyard.
What information are you most excited about using? To be able to compare the performance of the various trials we have running with the rest of the vineyard visually using charts rather than just a series of numbers!
What has been the main benefit of Sectormentor to you? It has shortened the process of collecting data and made it so much easier, also to be able to compare data from different blocks/trials/years visually right away.
Can you explain a little about the experiment you are doing with different pruning techniques and cane numbers? Very simply, yields in the UK are quite low compared to our European cousins due to our marginal climate, so we are conducting trials to see if retaining more canes at winter pruning will increase yields over the long run without it being detrimental to the health of the vine.
What’s next for Bride Valley? For a relatively small and new venture, we have had a fair bit of success with overseas exposure and sales, going forward we want to increase our yields and our sales in the UK.
What do you hope to see in the future for vineyards in the UK? Better weather and increased yields without losing the quality. Like most vineyard owners/managers it’s all about finding a balance between efficiencies and controlling costs, without impacting on the environment. Being financially and environmentally sustainable is the goal for everyone in my opinion.
If you’ve got any questions about monitoring data in your vineyard we’d love to have a chat with you. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org