Zam tries to round up people to take part in two photo shoots… he wants young people but not too young and older people who are not too old.  I am too old but he’s desperate.  The photographer, Tom, has been photographing the vineyard since this adventure began ten years ago and is now so successful that he needs booking months in advance.  Whatever the weather.  The weather actually turns out to be the last nice day I can remember so the first shoot is an afternoon of picnics and swimming.  The older group gather in a tent at the Grange Festival for supper, cooked by my sister: egg and prawn mousse, cold beef and salads, raspberries. “But don’t eat the mousse” she tells us, “It’s been sitting in the sun too long and will probably kill you.” We know that Zam will ignore this but Clare and I nod at each other. We’re not touching it.  My only job, other than to turn up, is to bring cream.

"... don't eat the mousse."

I have it in my head that we are “borrowing” the supper tent from people now sitting in the first half of the opera and that we must disappear without trace before they emerge from the theatre. “What time does the interval start?” Nobody seems to know or care.

delicious egg and prawn mousse

I’m so anxious I have second helpings of mousse. The other guests are so late they’ve tucked in before anyone has time to warn them.  Then I realise I’ve forgotten the cream so we pour milk onto raspberries but it moves too quickly - as Tom explains while telling me to hold a glass by it’s stem. All I can see is the gardening dirt under my nails.  Milk, dirt and poisonous prawns.  I haven’t seen the photographs.

I am sitting under a grey sky outside a bookshop talking to a friend. “And it’s June,” I say morosely, waving in disgust at the opposite of a late Spring sky. “Is it?” There is a note of panic in her voice, a flash in her eyes I wasn’t expecting, “Well no, not quite… but you know…” I am exaggerating, but only by six days. Her face relaxes, “Thank god for that,” she says. I’m about to concede that at least it ISN’T quite June when she adds “We’re very competitive in our family and if it was the 1st June and I hadn’t got pinch and punch in first I’d be...” she trails off, seeing my expression.  
At home, the rain pelts down on freshly planted sweet peas which lie forlornly on the soil…  Until last week they were in a new plastic greenhouse I begged Zam to buy (this is the definition of an object he cannot stand, but I persuaded him his Turban squash seedlings needed it). When the gales blew it over leaving young plants scattered from their pots, he shoved it in the shed where it will probably live for the rest of its days.  This happened on the same day that a pallet of shiny foils destined to dress the necks of the longawaited magnums was also caught in some wind-related courier catastrophe (the details of which remain mysterious) and have been crushed, useless.  He puts on his coat, his wet boots… steps over the parsley and coriander seedlings drowning in puddles by the back door. 
“Where are you going?” I shout at his retreating back, my words almost lost in the wind. “A Spring Evening Tour of the vineyard,” he shouts back.  When he returns it’s dark but his mood is light it always is after these events because he can talk about vines, buds, pruning techniques, dosages, brix levels… without his audience wandering off.  “And they ask really good questions.” “Where did you eat?” I ask. He looks at me, and I realise he thinks this isn’t one of them.

We are very happy to announce the arrival of Harry Pickering as our first in-house Winemaker. Harry’s appointment follows a six-month global search with over a hundred applicants from eleven countries – but he’s joining us from Gusbourne, just up the road in East Sussex. There he has worked with Charlie Holland since 2015, helping to establish a renowned range that stands at the forefront of English wine.

We had a hundred applicants from eleven countries - but the answer was just up the road...

After training in land management, the wine bug bit bad and, over the last 11 years, Harry has gained experience at vineyards and wineries in the Corbieres AOC in France,  in West (as well as East) Sussex and in the Waipara and Otago regions of New Zealand, where he also spent much of 2014 studying Viticulture and Oenology at Lincoln University.

Impression of The Grange Hampshire winery at the Burge's Field vineyard

The appointment is a critical step in the next phase of The Grange's development and, once he arrives in June, Harry will be overseeing the build and fit out of our sleek new winery designed by Timothy Hatton Architects (see above).  After that he will be tasked with taking the complex, rich and layered sparkling style we have developed with Emma Rice at Hattingley to the next level, as well as developing new sparkling and still wines and setting up a small high-end contract wine-making operation.

After the nightmare of 2020, it looks like 2021 is going to be a busy year!

With the grapes through the presses and the juices fermenting, the days are shortening and the damp and the chill starting to dominate, so it is something of a relief to be able to spend less time in the vineyard and put one’s feet up and look back on this bizarre year – there has certainly been a lot going, even leaving C-19 to one side.

From the viticultural point of view it has been mixed.  The terrible frosts of April and May hit us hard, reducing yields, but the generally lovely weather since those frosts has led to remarkable quality in all varieties and I am really looking forward to tasting the wines come 2024, even if they turn out to be rare jewels.

"...an astonishing carpet of gold and purple."

In Burge's Field the leaves are dropping, coating the ground with an astonishing carpet of gold and purple.  Phil and Sam are looking towards the arrival of our peripatetic flock of sheep (to tidy up the grass and add some welcome manure) and then, after a quiet January, the frozen joys of February pruning...

Outside the vineyard in 2020, the 2015 based wines have been doing very well in the  various wine competitions we have entered and have won 7 Silver medals, 2 Golds and a Platinum between them.  Driven on by these amazing votes of confidence for what we have always thought were lovely wines, the sales team, spearheaded by Claire, has also been going great guns.  Highlights include Daylesford stocking both wines at all their stores, Hawkins Brothers taking the CLASSIC and Haynes Hanson and Clark adding the PINK to the already stocked CLASSIC. Beyond that we also got on to the wine list at The Pig Hotel in The New Forest and the fabulously fashionable Hut at Colwell Bay on the Isle of Wight.

2020 will mainly be remembered for this miserable and terrifying virus but, in amongst the horror of those memories, we here at The Grange will have some little Platinum coloured glints...