The chalk/limestone soils, high in calcium and iron, are identical to those found in Champagne! The chalk creates a very porous, soft, limestone soil that vine roots can easily penetrate. Its structure provides excellent drainage and works best for grapes with high acidity levels. Free-drainage prevents any standing water (crucial in this climate!), which would limit oxygen to the vine’s root system. Iron plays a crucial role in aiding photosynthesis. All in all, perfect for our purposes!
It should come as no surprise therefore that we will be planting the 3 Champagne grape varieties on our blocks at Barham: Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier. We will be planting 4 different clones on 2 different types of rootstock (only 2 will tolerate the high levels of calcium & iron in the soil, 41B and FerCal). The vines are already on order as they needed to be grafted specifically for us and we aim to plant in early May 2014!
Early May is the optimum time for planting vines in the UK, with soil and air temperatures rising and frost risk over (we hope!). We will be bringing an experienced planting team over from France with their specialist GPS-guided tractor and planting ‘sled’. At that point we will be in the hands of the weather and will need a DRY 3-4 day period in which to get the young vines into the ground!