A series of highly topical debates at this year’s Fruit Focus will prove a strong draw for vineyard owners and managers keen to hear about the latest political, technical and business matters that affect their bottom line.
NFU and Syngenta Bioline are once again sponsoring the Fruit Forums, where polytunnels, productivity and pesticides come under the spotlight. Following that, Vines to Wines, partnered by marketing association English Wine Producers and the United Kingdom Vineyards Association, examines wine quality, a new vineyard with a difference and finishes with Vineyard Question Time.

UK wine quality – so far, so good; but now what?

English wine quality has improved enormously over the past 20 years thanks to the keenness of growers and producers to acquire new knowledge and improve production techniques.
However no-one can rest on their laurels, warns international winemaker and wine production consultant David Cowderoy says: “English wine is very much in vogue at the moment. Improved wine quality has been pivotal, but we need to maintain that momentum to remain competitive.”
His talk will focus mainly on winery techniques, challenging wine producers to keep innovating. He says: “Just processing the grapes and bottling the wine is not enough. I shall look at the key areas to focus on – where is quality being lost, and what can we do to improve it?”

A new English wine estate – a vision for the future?

Plans to establish the UK’s largest single vineyard are taking shape at the Rathfinny Estate, where some 400 acres of vines will occupy the southern slopes of the South Downs near Alfriston, East Sussex.
Owners Mark and Sarah Driver are pursuing a long-held ambition to produce fine wines, particularly sparkling wines. Rathfinny’s exceptional climate and soils are, like the Champagne region, ideal for producing the grapes they will need.
New Zealander Cameron Roucher, Rathfinny’s vineyard manager, will outline the vision of how this once conventional arable farm will be transformed into one Europe’s biggest and highest quality vineyards. He says: “It’s a fabulous opportunity to be involved with the development of a brand new vineyard, with a bunch of like-minded and passionate people. That’s why I’m moving to England.”

Vineyard question time

Viticulture adviser Duncan McNeill of FAST and pesticide expert Chris Cooper of the UKVA join the two previous speakers to provide a rare opportunity for producers and growers to access such expertise, and the panel will be ready to field questions on any aspect of the UK wine industry.

Fruit Focus 2011 will bring together more than 1200 growers and industry professionals and 120 suppliers covering all aspects of technology, agronomy, machinery and business information.

The event takes place at East Malling Research, Kent on July 20. Tickets for the event (£10 inc VAT), the conference including Fruit Focus (£225 + VAT) and the conference dinner (£95 + VAT) are available at www.fruitfocus.co.uk/ticketing

For more information on Fruit Focus 2011 go to www.fruitfocus.co.uk