For a group of wine-loving friends there is no better way to spend a warmish October day than to pick three quarters of a tonne of grapes from a Vale vineyard.
The 12 pickers descended on Hale Valley vineyard in Wendover last week – and the annual get-together was even more special as this is current owner Antony Chapman’s last year in charge.
Patrick Hurd, who joined the team picking the grapes, is taking over the reins and said he is relishing the challenge of the day-to-day management of the vineyard, which is run from a field that backs onto Mr Chapman’s house.
He said: “I am a bit apprehensive about it as I have big boots to fill. I am looking forward to the challenge though and I am sure Antony will be able to advise me if I need him to do so. As for the actual process of picking the grapes, when the weather is like today, dry and bright, there is no better way to spend a day.”
Mr Hurd, 57, a semi-retired lawyer and solicitor who lives at Lee Common said he was persuaded to take over the management of the vineyard after a conversation with Mr Chapman.
He said: “Antony and I had been good friends for a while and when I took on the running of an allotment with some vines I spoke to him and asked his advice.
“He explained that he was looking to take a back seat in terms of running the vineyard and I said I would be happy to take over.”
Current owner Mr Chapman, 77, said that he was still planning to retain some involvement with the vineyard.
He said: “I still plan to help with the picking of the grapes next year but I am not getting any younger and I am starting to find some of the day-to-day pruning and maintenance work challenging.”
The vineyard is run as a hobby, and every year, usually in October, a group of around 12 pickers, who are all good friends with a shared interest in the site, get together and pick around three quarters of a tonne of grapes from the one-acre field.
Mr Chapman said that on some occasions the group was able to pick around a tonne of grapes.
He said: “We have sometimes managed a tonne of grapes which is about 800 bottles of wine.
“We expect to pick about three quarters of a tonne of grapes this year, which is about average.
“We have also had particularly good weather for picking this year, with it being dry and sunny as we have had to do it before on some really cold and wet days.
“It takes about three hours in total, and although I wouldn’t say the work is overly taxing, some of us do feel it a bit at the end of the day!”
The grapes then go to a winery in Twyford which will make the wine, before the group get the chance to sample it.
Mr Chapman added: “One of the pleasures of the venture is in drinking the wine at the end of it. I also try and visit the winery if I can and sample some of it there.”