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The Vineyard at Yearlstone

Yearlstone Vineyard - the Story so far!

Yearlstone vineyard is located on a steep southerly slope on a hillside above the lower valley of the river Exe at the picturesque village of Bickleigh in mid Devon. It is 200 feet above sea level and has natural protection from the west, north and east. The soil is a silty clay loam over fragmented Devon red sandstone with excellent drainage.

The vineyard was started in 1976 by pioneering English viticulturist Gillian Pearkes. She planted many different wine varieties collected on her worldwide travels, experimented with wine growing techniques for the English climate, and wrote a very well regarded book based on her experiences. The vineyard had an international reputation thanks to Gillian's pioneering efforts.

After Gillian died in 1993, Roger and Juliet White bought the vineyard in 1994. Roger and Juliet have also expanded the vineyard area from the original 1.5 acres of mature vines to around 7 acres.. Please see vineyard map for exact layout.

VINEYARD LAYOUT

The original vines planted by the vineyard's founder Gillian Pearkes in 1976 were pulled out in 2010. The vines were then 34 years old and yield had fallen to non-viable levels. The life of a grafted vine is 25-30 years usually. The replanting was with the red variety Rondo and the white blender variety Reichensteiner. First crop (small) is expected in 2012.

To the right of the Rondo planting was the original experimental vineyard. This has now been replanted with Seyval Blanc. Below the Rondo and Reichs are the Madeleine Angevine, a variety which has proven itself in the South West over the past 40 years. These are half rooted English cuttings and half grafted vines.

Below the Madeleines are the Pinot Gris - planted in 1995. These and the Pinot Noir beside them (to the west) are on the hottest most sheltered slopes, nearer to sea level. To the west of the Madeleines higher up the slope are more Reichs and a small planting of the very early variety Siegerrebe.

Further to the west and above our old quarry is the planting of the red variety Dornfelder and more Seyval Blanc. A windbreak hedge has been planted between these and the rest of the vines - and after 10 years is having an appreciable effect in improving the microclimate of both areas. Above the quarry vineyard is an old cyder orchard (from which excellent Devon cyder is made).

Variety Map of the Vineyard 2011

The lower vines (the Pinots) are around 150 feet above sea level, and the higher vines, (the Rondos and Reichs) are about 225 feet. We have a higher field at around 275 feet but have decided against planting this. All vines are trained on Double Guyot system. We experimented with Scott Henry, but preferred the simple Guyot system. End posts are 8 foot 5-6 inch tanalised timber, with intermediate posts at 7 feet 4-5 inch. We have two supporting systems for the rows.. One with wooden anchors and strainers to the end post. The second with an internal post support to the end, linked with a horizontal cross timber and wire.

For those thinking of planting a vineyard in the South West, Roger offers a consultancy - a site inspection visit and a report costing £100. He can also guide on vine varieties and supply grafted vines with EU plant passport from a leading German vine nursery at competitive prices. Vine planting can be arranged if required. Individual consultations on economics and business plans to establish commercial plantings are available by arrangement.

Yearlstone has held courses on how to make a living from an English vineyard after which several students have gone on to plant up. These covered:

  • successful business models and why so many start ups are failures.
  • the economics of setting up your own winery vs contract winemaking.
  • detailed costings of setting up your own vineyard and/or winery
  • rules and regulations surrounding vineyards and wineries
  • site selection and varietal selection.

Despite the popularity of these courses, it proved difficult to cater for the widely varying needs of students (from "back-garden" to "serious") and so we are currently offering individual consultations only. For more information just send an email to: roger@yearlstone.co.uk.