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Sheep at Albourne Estate help keep on top of the workload - Alison Nightingale, Albourne Estate

PUBLISHED: 15:41 10 February 2015 | UPDATED: 12:28 23 March 2015

Archant

February is a busy month for award-winning wine producer Alison Nightingale, but her children’s ‘pet’ sheep are helping her keep on top of the workload at her vineyard, the Albourne Estate, near Hurstpierpoint.

BeforeBefore

The colder, but drier weather has been really welcome, despite cold feet and fingers it makes for much better weather for vine pruning.

AfterAfter

The winter pruning of the vines is a crucial step in the annual growth cycle when we remove most of the previous year’s growth to leave just one or two canes to produce the shoots and fruit for this year. The photos above show a before and after pruning shot of a vine.

In photo 2 you can see the single cane that is left and will be bent down to lie horizontally when we ‘tie-down’ the canes to the wire. We are now well underway with pruning and hope to have it completed by mid-March.

The observant amongst you will have noticed that last month’s photo also featured sheep in the vineyard. We have four ‘pet’ sheep of our own – given to us to feed as orphans, and unfortunately given names (Jake, Sean, Mike and Barnaby)… and so will never make it to the freezer! Above is Sean on a frosty morning in the vineyard – looking warmer than we felt!

The sheep are allowed in the vineyard in the winter to help keep the grass down and add their own manure. As 30 acres is much more than they can cope with, we also graze around 180 sheep from a local farmer for a few weeks. We cannot keep sheep in the vineyard year round as they would show far too much interest in eating the new vine shoots and get in the way of the equipment!

In the winery, blending and stability trials continue. We need to ensure that neither a protein haze will form if the bottle is stored in conditions that are too warm nor ‘tartrate’ crystals if it is stored in very cold conditions. Wine should be bright and clear when poured from the bottle free of any hazes or deposits – harmless though these are.

Our website is now updated with a Tours & Tastings bookings page – and we are looking forward to welcoming many visitors here over the summer months. See more at www.albourneestate.co.uk.

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