Friday, 21 September 2018

Henley Rotary Club

THE club’s “fifth Tuesday” meeting, to which partners and other guests are invited, was held on Tuesday

THE club’s “fifth Tuesday” meeting, to which partners and other guests are invited, was held on Tuesday last week at the club’s former regular venue, Henley Golf Club.

The guest speaker was local viticulturist Jan Mirkowski.

He told his audience how in 2012 he had turned a hobby into a career when he bought the Fairmile Vineyard, on the right-hand side of the Oxford road going out of Henley.

Having spent 30 years in industry, holding several important posts with responsibilities for environmental legislation, he had made wine in an airing cupboard ever since he had his first house.

He moved from Marlow to Henley when he decided to concentrate on the vineyard. He fenced off the seven-and-a-half-acre field to keep out deer and rabbits and prepared the soil by growing winter mustard before planting 12,000 vine rootstocks in 2013.



The French vines grafted on American rootstocks were 40 per cent chardonnay, 40 per cent pinot noir and 20 per cent pinot meunier, the same varieties used in the Champagne region of France — the site has a similar soil type.

The first harvest came in the autumn of 2015, when the grapes were sent to a winery in Hampshire. The first bottles of wine should go on sale by the spring of 2018.

Although all the grapes are white, two have red skins, so Mr Mirkowski hopes to be able to make rosé/sparkling wine.

The symbol of the vineyard is an oar (representing Henley) crossed with a bottle of sparkling wine.

Mr Mirkowski showed photographs of how the vines were originally planted, using accurate satellite navigation for perfect positioning on the steep slope.

Pruning of the vines usually starts in January on St Vincent’s Day, the patron saint of wine.

The speaker stressed his commitment to sustainability by allowing grass and wild flowers to grow as well as putting up bat boxes and owl boxes.

A long-term aim was to build a winery on the lower field but his more immediate priority was to market the wine arriving from the Hampshire winery in 2018.

He suggested that much would be sold locally.

Will Busher proposed the vote of thanks.



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