John Hawkins



Dr John Hawkins

Welcome to my bit of the Maison de Stuff, home to a huge load of pictures, and my daily blog.

My email address is as above - I've put it in an image in a vein attempt to reduce the amount of spam I get.

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Recent Entries:
Royal Oak at Wineham and Bolney Wine Estate
Ridgeview, Ditchling and Lewes
Thursday
Wednesday
Restaurant He and Holborn
Monday
ESW Prestige Cuvee Tasting Round Two
Chie and Erika off to Japan
Last Day of Term
Thursday
Wednesday
Tuesday
Vinegrowing Course Day 5
Hampstead

Royal Oak at Wineham and Bolney Wine Estate
[Saturday 13th April 2019]
Spent the morning happily pottering around in Lewes, then got the train to Haywards Heath, and a taxi from there to the wonderful Royal Oak at Wineham, where as an added bonus they were having a classic car meetup. After a superbly rustic lunch I walked from there to the Bolney Wine Estate where I joined their afternoon tour and tasting. Then another taxi back to Haywards Heath, and home.
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Ridgeview, Ditchling and Lewes
[Friday 12th April 2019]
I was originally planning on going to visit Rathfinny today, but when I called on the way down they told me they had sold out of sparkling wine, so I thought best to save it for May or later when they'd release the next vintage. So instead I visited Rideview today, then had lunch at the Bull Inn at Ditchling, then walked up Ditchling Beacon and along the ridge to Lewes. Spent the evening in Lewes, with dinner at the Lewes Arms.
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Thursday
[Thursday 11th April 2019]
A couple of random pictures, one of my new water bottle, the other of my lunch.
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Wednesday
[Wednesday 10th April 2019]
Nice weather today, so a good opportunity to check the state of things in the garden.
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Restaurant He and Holborn
[Tuesday 9th April 2019]
Went for dinner at Restaurant He, a restaurant serving Jiangsu cuisine, followed by a stroll around Holborn.
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Monday
[Monday 8th April]
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ESW Prestige Cuvee Tasting Round Two
[Sunday 7th April 2019]
Follow-up to last month's English sparkling wine prestige cuvee tasting.
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Chie and Erika off to Japan
[Saturday 6th April 2019]
Chie and Erika flew off to Japan, taking an evening flight for a change, meaning we had the day together first. Erika made another soup for us!
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Last Day of Term
[Friday 5th April 2019]
Last day of term for Erika, we went along to see her efforts in the Easter Egg race in the morning.
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Thursday
[Thursday 4th April 2019]
Not much to report!
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Wednesday
[Wednesday 3rd April]
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Tuesday
[Tuesday 2nd April]
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Vinegrowing Course Day 5
[Monday 1st April 2019]
Fifth day of my vinegrowing course.

Today's topics for the morning theory session were "vineyard floor management" (a subject which might historically have just been called "weed killing" but nowadays is portrayed in a more positive light) followed by an overview of approaches to sustainable viticulture.

As I remember my Mother saying many years ago, there is no scientific definition of what a weed is. It's simply any plant growing somewhere you don't want it to be growing. Opinions on the presence of other plants in the vineyard (apart from the actual vines) seem to have varied historically, and part of the reason the subject now tends to be referred to as the slightly more constructive "vineyard floor management" is the acceptance that there can be advantages to having other species of plant present. There are certainly disadvantages to weeds - chiefly that they compete with the vines for resources, and they make access more difficult. They can also harbour pests, and less intuitively can increase the frost risk.

On the positive side though, among other benefits "weeds" can help to prevent soil erosion (recently the subject of a report concerning Prosecco), they encourage biodiversity and the competition for resources with the vines can be a good thing as this can reduce vigour and encourage higher grape yields.

The traditional method for controlling weeds is cultivation (i.e. churning the soil up), however this tends to be a lot of work, and only briefly suppresses weed growth. Other approaches include temporary cover crops, mulching, flame weeding and using animals to graze on the weeds (sheep are apparently very common in English vineyards) - but, apparently, none of these are as effective as herbicides. Although we were told viticulture is approaching a challenging juncture in this regard, given that increasingly more and more of these substances are being banned and the industry will need to rely more on the alternatives in the future.

This led the way into an overview on sustainable viticulture - organic, biodynamic and other approaches. I hadn't fully realised quite how much snake oil there was in biodynamic viticulture - working to phases of the moon, and odd practices involving burying cows horns all sound a bit pagan to me, and not very scientific.

In the afternoon we headed over to the vineyard, and for the first time we actually had pleasant weather! It was very nice to see Rock Lodge and Deer Field in blue sky for a change.

Tom started by recapping some of subjects covered during the morning's theory session, and showing us some relevant bits of machinery which can be attached to a tractor for cultivation. We then headed out into the vines to practice attaching a new wire to the trellis, and then dropping the canopy wires down ready for tying up. He also showed us some examples of Pendelbogen training system, then we finished off back at the shed for a demonstration of the grafting machine.
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Hampstead
[Sunday 31st March 2019]
Late afternoon / early evening wander around Hampstead while Erika was at the cinema with a friend. By chance caught some Morris Dancing.
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