‘Battle of the Secateurs’ – UK Pruning Competition celebrates the skill in Britain’s vineyards

Following a long-held tradition in many wine-producing countries, WineGB’s vine pruning competition took place last week at Tinwood Wine Estate, West Sussex.

The event highlights the skill and hard work that goes in to looking after Britain’s burgeoning wine industry.

Pruning competition in full swingThis is only the second time such an event has been held the UK and attracted enthusiastic uptake of entrants into both team and individual trials. 12 teams of vineyard technicians from leading producers across the South East counties and 9 individuals each battled it out to win the title of Vine Pruner of the Year. The event attracted sponsorship from leading secateur manufacturers Felco, supported by N.P Seymour, vineyard equipment manufacturers and suppliers, as well as viticultural suppliers Gripple and Hadley Group and French vine nursery specialists Pepiniere- Tourette. The awards themselves were sponsored by The Vineyard Magazine and NFU Mutual Haywards Heath branch. Each winner received Felco secateurs and accessories and Bedlam Brewery supplied well-deserved beer to participants at the end of the competition.

Davenport Vineyards Winning Team Pruning Competition

L-R: Stephen Skelton MW, Tony Purdey, Phil Harris, Tom English and Ben Connor (Davenport Vineyards), James Dodson

After a competitive battle the ‘Champion Team Trophy’ was awarded to Davenport Vineyards, based in East Sussex, who retained the title having won in the inaugural event last year. Runners up were teams from Gusbourne (Kent) and Vine-Works (vineyard consultants).

In the individual category, Dragos Nitu from Gusbourne took first prize, with runners up Phil Harris and Ben Connor from Davenport.

Each competing team and individual were given a bay of five vines to prune and tie down, and judged for proficiency, accuracy and speed in the process by leading viticulturists.

“Pruning is the bedrock of viticulture and therefore the most important vineyard task in the year to secure not only the quality of the coming harvest but the longevity of the vines, which can last 30 or 40 years with the right care,” commented Stephen Skelton MW, Chair of the UK wine industry’s Viticultural Working Group.

He added: “Our wines are achieving world-class recognition – and it all starts in the vineyard. This competition is here to celebrate and highlight skills needed to produce top quality grapes.”

The event was organised by James Dodson of Vine Works, viticultural consultants to the UK wine industry and Tony Purdie of Yotes Court Vineyard in Kent. Tony commented: “I was really impressed with the enthusiasm shown by all the contestants as they pitted their skills against each other. It’s quite a daunting task to be critiqued by experts and we really appreciate everyone taking part.”

“In wine world you spend more hours pruning than on any other job – you can only mechanise it to a certain level so this really highlights the importance of skill and attention required by those individuals out there in the vineyard.”

James Dodson added: “There was a bit of friendly competition between rival companies and individuals as well everyone coming together in a fun and social environment to exchange views and even learn from each other. It’s one of the few times that viticulturists can come together.”

The champion vine pruners from Davenport are due to compete in an international vine pruning competition sponsored by Felco – date to be confirmed.

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