The UK is still a risky place to plant vines with its temperate, marginal climate! Kent records the highest sunshine hours in the UK, so it is an obvious location of choice for growing grapes. Sunshine hours equals photosynthesis, the key to plant growth and fruit maturity and this summer has shown that those hours can be significant.
The two blocks of land on which we will be planting vines are located in Barham, 7 miles south of Canterbury. It is ideal due to its situation 8 miles from the coast, which results in warmer average temperatures. The elevation of the blocks, less than 100m above sea level, also means that the vines will be protected from extremes of temperature.
Our two blocks in Barham are ideal to plant vines for a number of reasons. Firstly they are almost directly south facing, which maximizes heat accumulation during the day, something that will ultimately help ripen fruit. Secondly, both have significant slope, which is very important to allow cold air drainage, thus less exposure to and risk from frost (one of the most challenging environmental factors affecting English viticulture). Thirdly both blocks are surrounded by woodland, which importantly will act as windbreaks during the delicate early stages of young vine growth. Then there is the ‘terroir’ – more on that next time!