Terroir – that untranslatable French word which encompasses the geography, geology and microclimate of a vineyard and contributes to the characteristics of the resultant wine.  The chalk layer which rises to the surface to produce the vineyards of Champagne also outcrops in Surrey and at Denbies Wine Estate on the outskirts of Dorking, the geography and climate come together to produce the ideal growing conditions for grapes.

Denbies vineyard by cultivar

Our Garden Writers’ event, held at Denbies this week to announce our programme of events for 2013, was a great success.  A variety of talks kicked off the day.  Hozelock, sponsors of our Threatened Plants Project, had asked three National Collection Holders to trial a new product – the Flexispray.  Gary, Roger and Andrew gave us feedback on using the product and I was mentally crossing names off a Christmas present list –  until I found out that it won’t be available to buy until February.

Mike Buffin, chair of our Plant Conservation Committee, then outlined the importance of the Threatened Plants Project and how it fits into Target 13 of the Aichi Biodiversity Targets,  using ash dieback due to Chalara fraxinea to demonstrate the relevance of the research.

Mike Buffin

Finally a trio of Joanna, Vicky and Tom Hart Dyke presented some of the events organised for next year: an exclusive event at Longstock Park Water Garden  and a series of 35 Open Days to celebrate our 35th birthday.  Tom will be hosting an Open Day at Lullingstone Castle and we couldn’t hope for a more enthusiastic, passionate ambassador for this venture.  Details are being finalised and will soon be posted on our website, but prepare to be enthused by Collection Holders opening their garden gates to reveal the treasures held in their National Collections.

Jude Lawton from our Kent group, with Tom Hart Dyke

A tour of the winery, followed by a wine tasting gave everyone an appetite for lunch – a great opportunity to network and make contacts.

Mike Grant (editor of The Plantsman), Roger Parsons (NCH Lathyrus) and Bernard Shannon (MD of Hozelock)

After lunch a tour of the vineyard – an area covering 265 acres and growing 19 different cultivars of grape.

Our tour guide, Richard entertained and informed us as we toured the terroir.

We experienced the temperature difference between the sheltered slopes of the Dell and the top of the hill at Ranmore Common and marvelled at the huge expanse of vines.

Richard pointed out Logie Baird’s house on the face of Box Hill where he conducted some of his experiments in the development of television, as well as the slippery chalk slope used by Edmund Hillary when training for his climb of Everest.

Swiss Cottage, home of Logie Baird

Most of us ended the day via the shop; wine from the tasting, sausages for British Sausage Week and cheese as sampled at lunchtime were all too tempting and those who had travelled some distance to be with us were envying us locals with this delight on our doorstep.  Genevieve took back to the office a Hedychium stem brought by Andrew Gaunt to showcase his Collection.

Many thanks to Hozelock for sponsoring the day and to Denbies for hosting this event.  Look out for more news of our 2013 programme on the website.

A good time was had by all.

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2 Responses to Terroir

  1. It was a lovely day, thank you to everyone who came to hear about our exciting plans for 2013. If anyone would like any details of all that was presented please contact the office on 01483 447540. Vicky

  2. Genevieve Melbourne Webb says:

    Fantastic description of a fabulous day. Good grief, don’t I look short next to that Hedychium!

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