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It’s a Family Affair at Beacon Down Vineyard

My second harvest day this year was at Beacon Down vineyard in Sussex – how exciting to partake in their first commercial harvest! We were picking Pinot Gris, destined to be made into still wine at Stopham Estate, so definitely an exciting one to look out for in a year or two.

It was lovely to finally meet Paul Pippard, his wife Alice and their two boys, the older one pictured, being a bit shy but who spent most of the day smiling and charging up and down the vineyard with friends. Paul and I had previously chatted online, and the connections reached much deeper than that. My aunt, who I have taken to a few vineyards over the years, including a memorable long walk all around Rathfinny Estate, was visiting some old friends near Cambridge a year or so ago. When the usual niceties in a group of friends of friends included her telling where she lived, a nice couple said “Our son has a vineyard near there”.

Being somewhat intrepid, Anne (the aunt, who is in her 80s, I hope I’m allowed to say) not only found Paul’s vineyard but helped him with tying down after last Winter’s pruning. Actually she tells a funny story about that – after a hard morning’s work, she was fit to drop when Paul offered a cup of tea. She was relieved by the offer of a break and decided that she’d head off home after a hot drink. As the group was relaxing and warming up, though, Paul said “Only 2 more rows each and the whole vineyard is done”. After than (and yes, we are made of pretty stern stuff in our family!) she didn’t feel able to leave and pushed on through with a huge feeling of pride at the end, and fortunately no aching muscles the following morning.

After all that she was keen to see grapes resulting from her labours and she & I hadn’t seen eachother for a while so I went to stay with her the night before and we went together to join in harvest. Paul’s parents were there too, who Anne was pleased to catch up with again. Among a good number of volunteers were old friends who had lived near Paul and Alice in London, one of whom was Nate, who it turned out I’d met at a previous tasting event and who it was nice to catch up with again.

I tell this story not because it’s anything radical or spectacularly unusual, quite the opposite in fact, just a simple illustration of how visiting vineyards and maybe helping out can be a great excuse for friends and families to spend time together. Also to let you know that when offering to help out at a vineyard, you may get your arm bitten off, but you won’t regret it!

 

If that hasn’t put you off, head for our Directory and use the filters to find vineyards that welcome volunteers or check out our blog post of places to get involved.