In weather which was cold but mostly dry, teams from Hattingley Valley, Bride Valley, Ridgeview, Vineworks, Vinescapes, Gusbourne Kent and Gusbourne Sussex went head to head displaying their skills to the judges and the spectators all of whom had an encouraging word at seemingly the right time.

Before the team event took place the solo pruning event was held. Phil Harris, Naomi Solomon, Daniel Bojan, Stephen Skelton MW, Dragos Nitu, Ned Awty, Adam Foden, Rebecca Mackie, Rebecca Bowyer and Chris Buckley were all those who had bravely put their pruning skills on display.

It was mentioned by several in attendance that the competition had attracted more female entrants than in 2023 which saw Naomi Solomon as the only female to enter but 2024 saw not only more female entrants generally but also saw Gusbourne Sussex enter an all female team of Claire Foden, Isabel Tucker and Kimberley O’Brien. “People in the industry are embracing the competition year on year,” said James Dodson of VineWorks. “We have never been this far west and eventually we would like the competition to grow to include regional events and a grand final,” he added.

It was a privilege to witness this celebration of those who work so hard to improve the quality of grapes produced year on year. The excellent spirit in which the competition is conducted was illustrated by the fact that after the final call all the entrants decided to examine the work of the other competitors. 

This year the team from Hattingley Valley consisted of Colin Hayward, the vineyard manager, Andrew Smith and Adam Mynot. “At Hattingley Valley the vineyard tasks are undertaken by a team of volunteers that have each been trained in various tasks and there are many who previously had very different careers,” said Colin. This means that unlike most teams in the event Colin was the only professional on the team. “The twelve minutes passed quickly,” said Adam.

Outlining details of the competition joint organiser Tony Purdie, Vineyard Manager of Yotes Court explained: “Teams of three have to choose one person to prune, one to pull out and one to tie down. The team must complete five vines in 12 minutes. There were extra points to be gained from pruning and tying down extra vines.” The focus is always kept on spur positions, cane positions and sap flow.

The Vines at Langham Wine Estate are high grafted which provided plenty for the competitors to think about. “This provides a much larger head with water sprouts so it can be difficult to tell where the spur starts,” said Stephen Skelton MW. High grafting is not that common so it provides a challenge and a unique experience for everyone including the judges,” added Tim Ferris.

The atmosphere and camaraderie were evident throughout the day and the opportunity to celebrate vineyard skills was appreciated by everyone including the judges. Lead Judge Tony Purdie was assisted by James McLean (Vineyard Manager, Langham Wine Estate),
Travis Salisbury (Vineyard Manager, Wiston), Tom Bailey (Assistant Vineyard Manager, Wiston), Ben Brown (Agrii), Julian Searle (Agrii) and Tim Ferris (Hutchinsons).

The challenge was made more interesting as “shoot selection had not taken place so the number of cuts was increased and therefore the difficulty was higher” explained Travis Salisbury, who joined the judging panel for the first time this year. “It is good to be faced with different systems,” said Tony as he congratulated all the particpiants.

Tony Purdie and James Dodson of Vineworks started the competition together several years ago as a way to celebrate viticulture. Tony Purdie explained: “The whole idea of the team competition is that you really have to stop and think about what the person before you has done. James Dodson said: “I would like to say a special thank you to all the sponsors Agrii, Felco, NFU Mutual, NP Seymour, Vineyard Magazine and VineWorks. Also Thanks go to Langham Wine Estate and Phoebe French of WinesGB for all her hard work.”

First place in the Solo Pruning Competition was awarded to Daniel Bojan of VineWorks, Dragos Nitu was second and Naomi Solomon was amongst the winners once again as she was awarded third place.

Congratulations go to the winners in the team event with Gusbourne Kent taking first place. The three person team consisted of Dragos Nitu, Alex Stancu and Ben Osbourne who are taking the trophy back to Kent. The team from VineWorks consisting of Daniel Bojan, Catalin Tufareanu, and Daniel Cicu placed second and the team from Ridgeview of Austin Ellis, Lars Lundqvist and Emily Paine were awarded third place.

The winners were provided with Felco goody bags donated by
NP Seymour who were there on the day to support the event. Prize bags for the winners included a pair of Felco 8, 911 holster, f602 saw, 703 gloves, a Felco 501 knife, and beanie hat. Second place prizes included a pair of Felco 8, 910 holster, 702 gloves and beanie hat, whilst the prize for third place was a pair of Felco 8, 701 gloves and beanie hat. All the winners were also given a soil thermometer provided by Hutchinsons.

Miltos Mademlis assistant vineyard manager at Yotes Court whose vineyard in Greece produces wines from the Assyrtiko, Xinomavro and Malagouzia grapes really captured the day when he said: “It is lovely to see everyone joining together and having fun.”