The Winemaker’s Guide to a Happy New Year

In our household, Christmas has been a time of joy, love, sharing and deliciousness. It is a time of year that brings out the best in us – as we enjoy the experience of giving gifts. We have enjoyed delicious traditional foods, and undoubtedly some very special and distinctive champagnes and wines. OK, so we may have over-indulged a little, but wasn’t it worth it? Yes, of course – every yummy mouthful shared with family or friends, was a gift! 

So New Year is upon us now, and for many people this is a time when our emotions often tend to turn inward. What have we achieved in the past year? What should we do differently, aim for, or deny ourselves? It is a time of resolution and often of guilt and a feeling of not quite being the person we think we should be. 

YSC Life vineyard in Avize Grand Cru village

Well, winemaking has given me a few new perspectives on the New Year, and how to make our way through a life full of challenge and change, feeling more self-fulfilled and content. 

One of the first things that I find useful, is to create space to improve our lives. I call it ‘therapeutic pruning.’ We do a similar thing with grape vines – a winter activity that is critically important in ensuring an abundant harvest of juicy fruit come harvest time. We trim and shape the vine – removing unwanted leaves and branches to encourage thedevelopment of fresh young shoots, come springtime. If we never cut back the vines, the rambling vines would be woody and less productive. 

YSC Life old vines

In a way, this is rather like our lives and the habits and routines that sometimes can outgrow their usefulness. If we never made room for fresh growth, we would keep on doing the same old things, in the same old way, with the same amount of success or failure. 

YSC Life vineyard pruning

So in 2021, try some therapeutic pruning. Firstly, working out what is most important to you in life and why it is so important. What gives you the greatest sense of fulfillmentand why? Is it something that benefits you, other people, or the world? There may be a number of things in your life that you could ‘let go’ – to create space for improvement and change. 

Improvement and change are only really possible with learning something new or being exposed to exciting new ideas and perspectives. Keeping our minds open to diverse views and new information, is one of the greatest things we can do to fill the space created within our minds. The more diverse and interesting knowledge we take in, the more we can change and grow. 

So, having pruned, we need to enrich our minds, rather like ensuring our vines are thriving with the right sort of nourishment in the soil. My vineyard in Champagne is managed according to the organic farming principles, encouraged throughout the region. Biodiversity keeps pests under control and ages-old techniques, like using a horse-drawn plough, help keep heritage alive. 

‘Tying the vines’ is where we train the vines, to maintain a strong structure through the growing season. It means the vine is supported and has the structural strength to produce abundant fruit. In many ways, having confidence in ourselves and who we are, is like providing the structure for our growth and happiness. If we are negative about ourselves and our achievements, we have a poor structure for growth and happiness. 

YSC Life vineyard structure

I think we’ve all experienced those times when we feel we don’t quite shape up to our expectations of ourselves. Notsmart enough? Slim enough? Efficient enough? Pretty enough? Who is this person that we think we should be? Someone we follow online, a pretty airbrushed image in a magazine, or a celebrity with what seems like the perfect boyfriend, friends, house, career, figure and Masters degree in neuro-biology. Why should that affect the way we feel about ourselves, especially when our friends and family love us just the way we are? What is this voice in our heads that tells us we aren’t good enough? 

If you make any commitment to yourself for 2021 – may I suggest this. Firstly, put away any negative thoughts about yourself – your looks, your achievements, your situation in life. Accept that you are a perfect individual as you are. The fact that any of us were born, and living on such a beautiful planet, is miracle enough. Yes, things are tough right now, but there is still beauty and so much to learn around us, that we perhaps need to think not so much of where we are inadequate, but how we can make the most of every moment. 

YSC Life vineyard in Winter

Each harvest is different, and each champagne cuvée that we nurture and bottle, has its own distinctive style. That is the most important insight from winemaking – the beauty of difference and unique potential. 

With belief in ourselves, without guilt, and with space in our minds to learn, adapt and grow, we will each enjoy a bountiful harvest of achieving our unique potential. Let’s celebrate each day the sun rises, celebrate our natural world, and the miracle that created each one of us as we welcome in 2021 with lovingly created bubbles. 

YSC Life in the vineyard

Happy New Year everyone!

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