THE PIG-in the South Downs in Sussex is home to the very first PIG planted vineyard. This passion project was the idea of our Chairman Robin, a serious wine enthusiast at heart, who has long hankered after making wine in the UK.
The chalky folds of the South Downs have found another vocation…as England’s new wine heartland and we are thrilled to join the (slightly squiffy) party!
Look out from the main restaurant, across the hedgerows out to the undulating South Downs in the distance and there in front of you is a perfectly formed south-facing 2-acre chalky field – and in May 2020 4,000 baby vines were planted.
So, as we sit in the transition from spring to summer, we thought we ought to give an update on the goings-on in our very own vineyard; Luke Harbour, Head Sommelier at THE PIG-in the South Downs is here to bring us up to speed….
0.83 Hectares of viticultural splendour sits nestled beneath the latest addition to the PIG litter, benefiting from a favourable south-facing aspect and a microclimate unique to the surrounding landscapes. It was always bound to be a busy year in the vineyard, with the vines being in ‘year 3’ of their development, meaning we may see a bunch or two… Exciting times lie ahead!
Following a pruning masterclass from John Atkinson MW earlier in the year, an enthusiastic group of employees from South Downs, in addition to many who made the long trek from other PIGs across the South, are currently partaking in bud-rubbing – a crucial point in the vineyard journey that acts as a foundation for the vintage ahead. It’s a laborious yet vital task.
Keen eyes can spot an array of wildflowers and foliage between each vine, but their presence is far from just aesthetically pleasing. Wildflowers and shrubs act as natural cover crops, which support the soil, reduce erosion, and provide nutrients. This allows for a technique called integrated pest management, which offers a habitat or sustenance to the predators that rely on a vineyard’s common pests. Therefore, we can mitigate the use of often-harmful agrochemicals to a bare minimum, catalysing our efforts in being a sustainable vineyard.
2022 is looking good thus far, I say touching the nearest piece of wood. The common foe of frost stayed at arm’s length, keeping the heat torches in the shed for the winter. The weather has been fantastic, bright blue skies with lots of sunshine, and a warmer spring than usual. the April showers seemed to jump to May this year, giving the sight a healthy volume of precipitation. Every day the vineyard’s green façade is evolving, and the first signs of bunches, (albeit very small), are starting to appear…
You can read more about our love-affair with wine and meet some of our local wine suppliers in our brand-new book ‘THE PIG: 500 miles of Food, Friends & Local Legends’. Order your copy here.