Where to Plant? – vitiMapUK

An article in 2010 piqued my interest which showed maps of where is best in the UK to plant a vineyard from a whole host of viticultural perspectives. It was driven by Chris Foss who runs the Plumpton college Wine Department, and that Foss vitiMap paper is available online. Furthermore I ended up doing some extended viti-climate work for a piece of work I did early in my first year at Plumpton College, combining some of my IT skills with the little I had learned about grapes. I decided to take this on a few weeks ago for a bit of fun and see it I could derive some climate maps of the UK, the initial mutterings are as follows.

For all maps:

  • Growing season = May-September inclusive
  • Frost is for April & May
  • All data is average of 2000-2006 inclusive
  • Darker colour means metric is greater/larger/higher
  • UK broken into >10,000 sub-areas

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There’s nothing too surprising from these maps. It looks like the south-east is good for vines from the perspective of sun, low rainfall, low humidity, and so on, and this matches where the big UK vineyards are (I’ll get round to superimposing my UK vineyards map at some point). Clearly in reality there might be significant specific meso-climatic reasons why any site within one of the blocks shown on the map might be better or worse for vines. Nevertheless it’s interesting to see. I’ve not take this very far – lots more work is possible. Most notably it might be possible to come up with a single number/index/score to judge a current or potential site. It would then make sense to merge this work with some other work I’m trying to kick off which is to get some proper historic yield analysis of UK vineyards. Such a combination of work would then allow viti-climate maps to be parameterised in a way consistent with what actually works in the field. It’s a grand thought, and, back in the real world, I’ll confess that life is short! To wrangle this into any proper sense I suspect I’d need to speak with viticultural experts from other regions to see their studies to apply sensible models to UK data. On top of that I’d love to flesh out the work further in the direction of the Foss paper to include viticultural parameters other than climate (such as altitude, soil, aspect and so on).

I’m meeting with a former Plumpton student next week to discuss some climate-related work he’s done on this previously (for which his project got a stellar mark) to see what can be taken further. It should be interesting. I’ve already had some thoughts about how to extend the maps I’ve shown here, but am keeping them under wraps for now.

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