HUSH HEATH ESTATE GRAFTS GRAPE VINES TO APPLE TREES THE GRAPPLE IS BORN!
Globally respected English wine producer champions a healthier fruit harvest and a new first for English wine
Hush Heath Estate in Kent, one of England’s top premium wine producers, is grafting grape vines to their own apple trees in the estate’s 20 acres of apple orchards. Producer Richard Balfour-Lynn became increasingly concerned at the backbreaking work of picking grapes at harvest time, and took the innovative step to create a world first – a grape vine grafted to an apple tree branch. It means that in the not too distant future grapes can be picked at the same height as apples from the very same branch. The advantage is that no bending will ever be necessary for the picker, leading to a healthier and happier workforce.
This revolutionary grafting has proved successful in early tests and Hush Heath’s apple trees, which formerly grew Cox and Egremont Russet apples, are now growing Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grapes. At this stage, the Pinot Meunier, the third traditional Champagne grape, has not grafted well but further experimentation continues.
Cathy Turner, who leads the Vineyard team, said: “Picking grapes from apple trees will not only alleviate my back pains, but will also help with my posture. The whole team is thrilled at the prospect.”
Wine experts who have tasted Hush Heath’s early new varieties are not sure whether the labelling should be ‘English Sparkling Grapple’ or simply ‘English Sparkling Wine’ and DEFRA have been consulted on this contentious issue.
A DEFRA senior employee was heard to mumble “we are still ‘grappling’ with the issue of English wine PDOs and we have now been thrown this curve ball.” It is likely that the naming of this new product will be deferred until post-Brexit in order to prevent interference from any of the other European wine producing countries.
Hush Heath Estate wine producer Richard Balfour-Lynn comments: “At Hush Heath Estate we use our own quality fruit to make our English wines and Kentish ciders. As a boutique, family-owned business we strive to look after our people, some of whom work alongside other generations of their own families. Harmony and innovation matter.
“We realised that some of our fruit pickers were getting bad backs from bending and stretching to reach our vines and so we wanted to help them. It occurred to us that grafting grape vines to our apple trees was the simple solution. Our team is happy; the fruit is ripe and delicious. So ultimately everyone will be a winner.”
Since the first award-winning grapes were planted at Hush Heath in 2002, the Estate has grown its product range substantially and already offers a wide selection of wines and ciders all produced from fruit grown in 400 acres. The Grapple could add to the portfolio.
Richard Balfour-Lynn is available for comment, interviews and selective advice on posturepedic matters within the viticulture industry.