Polgoon Vineyard's Story

Kim Coulson from Polgoon Vineyard in Penzance tells Cornwall Life about her and husband John's vineyard, orchard and winery and how it is flourishing

Fruits of Our Labour

Kim Coulson from Polgoon Vineyard tells Cornwall Life about her and husband John’s vineyard, orchard and winery and how it is flourishing

When we decided to start a vineyard we had no idea what we were letting ourselves in for. As with so many endeavours in life, we would perhaps have balked at the work involved had we known; ignorance is bliss. Nearly a decade into the project, and while we still often feel as if we are on the steepest learning curve this side of tomorrow, the whole business has become so compelling that we would certainly walk away from the eject button, but on ‘dark’ days we sometimes wish that such a button existed!

We took possession of Polgoon in 2002 and threw ourselves into the process of transforming it from a collection of derelict buildings and tumbledown barns surrounded by 23 acres of unused land in Penzance, into the thriving vineyard, orchard and winery it has become today. In the early years we received a lot of incredibly useful help and encouragement from the guys at Camel Valley, who gave generously of their time and expertise. We first planted 3,500 vines in 2004 and three years later we produced our first vintage. We made a white wine, a red wine and a ros�, ordered some bottles, designed some labels and set about selling. Having worked out of Newlyn in the fish trade, supplying many local restaurants, we were in a good position to start building a decent client base, many of whom are still regular customers. Almost as an afterthought we sent off our 2006 ros� for judging in the UK Vineyards Association annual tasting, and were astonished when we won the Gold Medal for the best UK ros� that year. We now have only a few bottles of the 2006 left, under lock and key in our drinks cabinet!

We went on to plant another 8,000 vines during 2006 and 2007. There is nothing like producing a crop from your own land. The highs and lows can be extreme – seeing the first buds appear on the vine canes and apple trees, watching them flower and then develop into tiny fruit, tending and nurturing them through the growth season, keeping a sharp eye out for pests and diseases and praying for good weather. The earth is an exacting mistress and ultimately what she says goes, no matter how cleverly we may try to manipulate it. From the joy of our first award we stood and watched in horror as rains wiped out two harvests in a row, through 2007 and 2008. We were left with no grapes at all – somewhat problematic when you’re trying to run a wine business. It was diversify or die, so we began experimenting with our orchard produce. That was the start of a whole new phase.

Polgoon Aval, Aval Raspberry and Peren (aval means apple in Cornish, peren is pear) are now a major part of our operation.  These three drinks are produced in the ‘m�thode traditionnelle’, meaning they are fermented twice, once in a tank and then a second stage in a bottle – the same technique used in the production of Champagne, which has won us a string of awards. The latest addition to the range is a Sparkling Elderflower Wine, produced by us for River Cottage. It goes without saying that such a high-profile logo on our label is a fantastic boost for us. This floral cup of summer is to be followed up with new drinks we are developing for the River Cottage range.

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Like all fruit growers, Polgoon is a hive of activity as the summer draws to a close. We will be picking the grapes for the 2010 vintage, starting with the Rondo and working our way round to the Seyval over a two to three week period. In the orchard we will start with picking our Discovery apples before moving on to our other varieties – Katy, James Greaves, Cox, Bramley, Red Windsor, Falstaff and Red Falstaff. These last varieties are looking particularly good this year, and what we don’t turn into cider or juice we will sell locally as whole fruit. Our apple press can cope with around two tons of fruit each day, so we reckon on it being kept pretty busy over the next few weeks!

In previous years we have relied on a hardy troupe of die-hard volunteers, who faithfully appear, as if by magic, when the time is right and who help us gather in the fruits of our labour. These kind souls range from school friends of our children, local allotment growers, friends and family, even a retired ballet dancer keeping herself flexible! This year will be different. While we will not be interviewing and taking up references for picking jobs, as they do at the most famous Bordeaux chateaux, we will at least be providing lunch. Indeed, we might have to christen it the Polgoon Pickers’ Picnic!

For further information visit www.polgoonvineyard.vpweb.co.uk