Saturday, 30 December 2017


I’m writing this in the continuous long Sunday afternoon that is the week in-between Christmas and New Year. The intake of food and drink at Higher Plot and at various relative’s abodes has been prodigious and the urge to write an article about further indulgence isn’t as strong as it could be. We don’t feel too guilty about taking advantage of the Slackmus period partly because the end of the holidays means getting our big coats on for the start of winter pruning and also, I’ve just read an article about the alcohol intake of one of the greats of the wine trade 90 year old Michael Broadbent’ His son wrote -

"Though my parents were in the wine business they aren't big drinkers. Champagne for breakfast because orange juice is so boring without Champagne. Then nothing until lunch, except perhaps you'd be given Madeira because their coffee was so bad. But otherwise nothing except for a Bloody Mary. They'd then have white and red wine with lunch and Port after, but that's not drinking, it is part of the meal. But nothing else until dinner, except the tea was so bad that you'd get Madeira instead. Before dinner, they would have one drink, either a gin and tonic or whiskey and then, of course, white and red wine with dinner followed by Port. However, because of my father's heart, his doctor told him "you have to have something to drink  before bed", so then he has a Grand Marnier."

This sounds a prodigious and indeed, it is certainly way more than your doctor would recommend  but the thing is, they drink out of very small  glasses. Probably around 100ml. Over the years glasses have got larger and larger to the extent where it isn’t uncommon to be served wine in a 250ml glass in other words, a third of a bottle and more than the recommended daily allowance for a woman.

This picture is of some of the glasses that we have at home. From left to right, the first two glasses are 18th Century wine glasses, not much more than a thimbleful in today’s terms. The third one is still pretty small, a Paris Goblet which was common up to the 1990’s. The fourth is what’s called an ISO glass. This is what we use at the farm. It’s a completely standard size and shape and is to be found  in practically every professional tasting room from Tuscany to  Tumbarumba. It’s based on the Sherry Copita and if you could only have one glass for every type of wine ( or spirit for that matter), this would do the job. Second from the right is our personal favourite. It’s a Riedel restaurant red wine glass. Handmade Riedels cost a fortune but these machine made ones are around £3.50 and £5.00 per glass and comfortably hold 175ml.  The last glass doesn’t come out of its box very often. It’s made by Dartington and the large surface area means that you can practically stick your face inside it if you have a really special wine.
If there was only one rule about which wine glasses to buy it would be that they should narrow towards the top to capture wines lovely aromas. That being said, drinking young red wine from a beaker in the tapas bars in Rioja works just fine and, of course you can’t beat a glass of fizz from one of those Champagne Coupes allegedly modeled on Madame de Pompadour's breast.
Image result for champagne coupe glasses madame de pompadour

Post Harvest R&R

By the time you are reading this, me and Mrs Grape will have our feet up, furry slippers on and will be on the sofa drinking cream sherry and nibbling Garibaldi biscuits whilst shouting at the telly Gogglebox style. Fred the vineyard dog will be asleep in his bed dreaming about that day when all those people turned up in waterproofs and wellies to disturb his tenacious all day snoozing.  With the help of our friends and neighbours we will have harvested six or seven tons of grapes that have been crushed and are happily bubbling away in a spic and span winery in near Bridport. 

The trouble is, as I’m writing this, we are four days before  harvest and my weather forecast habit has gone completely haywire. I am bingeing on a random rotation of half hourly Met Office, BBC and Accuweather. I am
willing the band of rain predicted for Sunday to arrive early and be through by early morning. In my wilder moments I have contemplated reaching out to the owners of any convenient off shore wind turbines to ask if they can turn them around for an hour or two to blow it through. Alternatively, I wonder if we could flag down a passing helicopter from Yeovilton to make a quick stop to give a bit of down blast to dry everything and everyone out. The next task on our list is feeding the forty or so people that are going to turn up. An army of pickers marches on its stomach and needs cake. Lots of it.  Is a strong leaning towards Coffee and Walnut a Somerset thing? With the weather we’ve been having recently, you’d think that Lemon Drizzle would strike a chord. There is daily discussion with the winery on the subject of how the grapes are looking. Is there any mould ( as of today,  no), what are the sugar and acidity levels, the tonnage expected and general timings.

This is now our eighth harvest and every year, the thing that never fails to strike us is how everybody pulls together. The crew doesn’t turn up just for a single day taste of the bucolic life, pickers lunch and a glass of wine. To a man and woman, they stay until every grape is picked and the last crate is loaded onto the truck. We love them.