The Queen’s Platinum Jubilee
It is the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee this year and in order to celebrate we have planted apple trees. The Queen’s Green Canopy initiative was inspirational: Plant a Tree for the Jubilee – Woodland Trust. We want to do our bit to grown a green canopy across the United Kingdom. Its not just to help the environment. its because an orchard is beautiful and a great place for us humans to be too. Although here at Ambriel HQ we plant hedges and trees every year as part of our sustainability efforts, this year we thought we’d do something special. For us, the Platinum Jubilee means a Treebilee.
So at the bottom of the East vineyard we have found just enough space to plant a micro – orchard. There is an apple tree for every decade of the Queen’s 70 year reign. We have chosen 7 different types of trees of the following varieties:
- Laxton’s Superb
- Herefordshire Russet
- Worcester Pearmain
- Red Devil
- Cox’s Orange Pippin
We have planted a little orchard because orchards are a Priority Habitat for conservation in the UK. All fruit trees are great for bees. With luck, it will be a fantastic home for many plants, birds and animals. Although our Pulborough vineyard is already rich in wildlife, there’s always room for more. We have underplanted with wildflowers to encourage biodiversity. It doesn’t hurt that it looks pretty too. Literally as fit for a Queen as a Queen bee.
It all started with an apple
The micro-orchard is close to the vines. We hope they will all interact via the www (the world wood web). Vines in the wild are climbers. Trees are the original trellis. Curiously, there’s a long association between orchards and wine – not just because some outstanding vineyards are planted on old apple orchards , for example, in Sonoma, California: California’s Disappearing Apple Orchards | Travel| Smithsonian Magazine I’m thinking a bit before then. In 1657 Ralph Austen wrote ‘The Treatise on fruit trees and the Spiritual use of an Orchard’. It doesn’t sound that exciting, but it was the start of something marvellous. Fizz! Up until then, bubbles had happened by accident from time to time and were despised as a fault. Some believed they were caused by evil spirits. Some thought it was the phase of the moon. However here was Ralph Austen suggesting popping a lump or two of sugar into the apple juice at bottling to deliberately make bubbles. Genius! If the apple juice contains dormant yeast because it is too chilly, the yeast wakes up in the warmth of Spring, eats the sugar and referments. As it ferments, yeast gives off alcohol and carbon dioxide. Baby bubbles! The carbon dioxide can’t escape the glass bottle, so it has to dissolve into the cider …. fizzy cider. So if you like fizz, just remember, like other temptations, it all started with an apple.
Well if you could do it to a barrel of cider, why not try it with a barrel of wine?
They did. In 1662 Christopher Merritt explained to the Royal Society that vintners and inn-keepers were adding sugar (either a walnut or nutmeg-sized lump) to each bottle when they bottled their barrels of wine. The sugar yeast feast kick-started secondary fermentation and created bubbly wine. Huzzah! These Sparkling wines were celebrated for their ‘nittiness’ and their ‘whizzing noise’. In the seventeenth century, they fizzed up any wines they could get their hands on. It was like an ancient version of a soda stream. Barrels of wine of any colour from anywhere – including Champagne – were imported, bottled, sugared, fizzed and popped. They were so popular it became the new fashion. In fact, even the first reference to fizzy ‘Champain‘ in 1676 was in George Etherege’s ‘The Man of Mode, or Sir Fopling Flutter‘. The fizz was more sucessful than the play. It flopped and was only performed three times. We can forgive it though – because it gave us ‘Champain‘.
Here’s to the next 70 years
So it is appropriate we have apples in the vineyard. Our little saplings will take time to grow. When they do, we’d love to welcome you to relax in the dappled shade of their canopy. Come sit and drink in the view, while you listen to the dumbledore buzzing of pollinators. I shall try and think of Christopher Merritt rather than Issac Newton. And if you hum the William Tell overture to yourself and think of Robin Hood, I won’t tell a soul.
Congratulations Your Majesty on the last 70 years. Our little orchard will be a tiny part of your nationwide legacy. We will officially opened it over the Jubilee weekend, and launch it with an Ambriel toast.
Who knows? We might even celebrate with – what else – Pomme Pommes!