How sheep wool is helping vineyard make better wine

From Welsh, a farmer’s novel idea to help deter pests from eating allotment vegetables could help kickstart a revolution in the Welsh wine industry.

Wool fleeces are being put down on grapevines at one north Wales vineyard after they were found to cut the need for chemicals and improved fruit quality.

After a small-scale trial, the vineyard is now laying fleeces below all its vines.

Gwinllan Conwy owner Colin Bennett said initial results from the trial were phenomenal.

They get better wine and the riduction of many disease problems without the use of a lot of chemicals.

He hopes it means the vineyard can become entirely organic in next years.

But the benefits do not stop there at the 1.6 hectare vineyard.

The winemaker said the woollen fleeces had helped retain moisture, deter pests such as slugs and reflected the sunlight back onto the vines.

It led to the most unexpected – and welcome – discovery: the vines using fleeces have much riper grapes. That’s means higher alcohol in the wine, and more full-bodied wines. 

It is thought to be the first vineyard in the UK to try this method of cultivating grapes.

The grower said tests on the trial vines and traditionally-grown grapes showed up to two-percentage points difference in sugar content.

According to the winemaker, in sometimes challenging Welsh weather, it could mean the difference between a great still wine, and one that can be used only for weaker sparkling wines.

Mr. Bennet has also others entrepreneurial projects: the wool could become a family business, raise awareness of how incredible material is, and almost bring back traditional values to agriculture. Most farmers in the UK are shearing at a loss, but enhancing this new use of the wool they could they can feel part of a new circular economy.