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The English Apple Man


5th Apr 2024 - Sparkling Grape Juice and April Showers

This week The English Apple Man visited Biddenden Vineyards in search of a new product; Biddenden Sparkling Grape Juice.


There I caught up with Julian Barnes head of the family business started more than 50 years ago by his father and mother


As a lover of Red Wine - "well all wine actually" - I had heard Tom Barnes (Julian's son) had more Gamay grapes at harvest than he needed for their Biddenden Gamay Wine, so decided to try something new.


Inspired to find an enjoyable drink for my evening tipple, while trying to reduce my alcohol intake, I set off for Gribble Ridge home of Biddenden Vineyard.


While tasting the Sparkling Grape Juice, I discussed with Julian the world of farming, the challenges facing fruit growers and farmers and the rapid rise in UK Viticulture (much of it in the South of England but not confined to the South with Vineyards established in Wales)


Originally home to a 40 acre apple orchard, Julian's parents Richard and Joyce started to consider diversifying the farm in the late 1960s as apple prices began to decline. After listening to a feature on the BBC's Woman's Hour programme about English vineyards being replanted, Joyce Barnes was inspired to turn to viticulture. In 1969, one third of an acre of vines was planted and Biddenden Vineyards was born.


Julian runs Biddenden Vineyards alongside his wife Sally and son Tom, Julian's other sons, Sam and Will, also work in the viticultural area of agriculture. Julian is also Chairman KCAS (Kent County Agricultural Show.





Below: The Barnes Family in 2019 celebrating 50 years of Viticulture




Below: Ann who served me in the Biddenden Vineyard Shop among a plethora of Wines, Juices and other consumable products.



Below: Scenes of Biddenden Vineyard's Shop



Click on: Biddenden Vineyards




April Showers


Not exclusive to April, the wet weather has been with us for some time now. The ground on most farms is waterlogged and now with the fruit trees; apple and pear in leaf and beginning to show blossom, the danger of scab infection is severe.


I have spoken to some growers, who, even with four-wheel drive tractors have become 'stuck in the mud' in some parts of their farm.


Controlling scab successfully requires protecting the new leaf as it emerges, with a protectant spray. Normally protectant will be applied every 7-10 days from bud burst and if the control is good, then reduction in protectant will be possible in June. IF! scab is under control!


However, successful scab control requires dry weather when spraying and dry ground beneath; and it 'goes without saying' well calibrated equipment.


It depends on variety, but we are now at the green cluster, pink bud stage, with some varieties coming into bloom


Below: left to right; Bladon Pippin at Green Cluster. Gala at early pink Bud. and Red Windsor at advanced (balloon stage) Pink Bud



Comment from my Agronomist friend: "Need some warmth now so the roots can start taking up some nutrients. Pouring on leaf treatments but you can only really fine tune with that.


Rimpro scab model shows Scab infections are off the scale. Ground and weather conditions extremely challenging but growers are doing a sterling job. Below: left at Cobham in Kent and; right at Tonbridge in Kent



RIMpro has been helping growers for over 25 years in more than 40 countries worldwide to monitor pests and diseases and reduce their use of pesticides.


Click on RIMpro for more information.



Finally, I visited Sainsburys this week and while inspecting the display promoting British Apples I noticed a tray of Pink Lady and aware of British grown Pink Lady now available (in limited supply) I took a closer look. Labelled Sainsburys Pink Lady and on offer at 50p per apple, all looked fine, but were they 'Home Grown' or imported?



As there was no information indicating either, I lifted the tray from its position and inspected the tray end label; there in large letters the label boldly stated country of origin FRANCE!



That is all for this week


Take care


The English Apple Man