Come what May

The sun is beating down once again as we begin what is the third month of lockdown, or at least this sort of faux lockdown we seem to be in. 

The incredible thing at the moment, and I’m sure you feel it as much as I do, is the drastic change from month to month. Particularly when writing the magazine, I find the things that seemed so important to include at the beginning of the month are almost irrelevant four weeks later as I come to write this welcome letter. 

It feels like an age ago but it’s really only been a few weeks since vineyards were lit up overnight to ward off the frost. However, as this magazine goes to print reports are out from the Met Office that it was the sunniest May on record in the UK, the driest for more than 100 years in England, and the second driest in Wales. With not a cloud in the sky – and even less vapour trails – the hotting-up of Great Britain seems to have supercharged overnight. 

Here I am baking in the heat and looking out over almost completely dried out land. Speaking to vineyard owners and workers this month, this has resulted in more challenges in what was already a difficult time – particularly with labour shortages. 

These ongoing issues are echoed by newly released research from WineGB. It has shown that vineyards and wineries are really feeling the pressure, with two thirds reporting cashflow concerns and half have delayed strategic investment. Unsurprisingly, this has resulted in four out of ten owners experiencing higher stress levels. 

Meanwhile, half of larger vineyards said they have concerns about the availability of seasonal workers and one third of owners are experiencing supply chain issues. The knock-on effects in the vineyard are continuing to find new ways to put on the pressure. 

There has been some positivity, as some vineyards are preparing to open up cellar doors with new social distancing in place or finding new ways to offer vineyard tours later in the year. You can read my interview in full with one vineyard manager who’s been deep in risk assessments and guidance to ensure he can get back to some sort of normality as soon as possible. 

What has likely been some more welcome good news, was the release of the Sommelier Wine Award winners too, with some high praise for the continued hard work going into producing these wines.  

It feels almost as if the world is tempting us with some return to normality. It’s hard to believe that after all of these unpredicted difficulties it could get much worse, but we will have to wait and see what the month ahead holds. 

I hope you enjoy the issue and, as ever, please get in touch with your thoughts and stories.