I am writing a novel based on the premise (however unlikely - I can cope with things are not necessarily likely) that a young man inherits a small plot of land in the UK on which, he discovers, is an original vine brought from N.Africa by an ancestor in the 1860s as 'vinifera Hebén (Gibi). El Harrach,’ and unsullied by the blight. To cut the story short, he moves to Portugal and finds an old farm in central Portugal with suitable growing conditions and decides to plant the vine there and start a vineyard. (Wow - so much in there, and the more I learn, the more I realise the less I know!)
However, at the moment, what I need is some sage advice or commentary about starting a vineyard. I don't need vast quantities of detail, but I do need to know I am on the right lines and that what I am writing is not complete tosh. If anyone would like to contribute their thoughts, I'll be happy to credit them when and if the book sees the light of day (it's 2/3 complete now).
Currently, our hero has found a small farm near Luso in central Portugal with gentle slopes and a sandy, well-drained soil and a small lake. I think I'm going to make the potential planting area 20 acres. Is this too small? I need him to prepare the ground, plant the vines and see or make some sort of recognisable progress in year one, although I realise that the project is 3 - 4 years to get a harvest and then however long it takes to produce wine. One problem is that he has only a couple of surviving vines, so how the heck does he propagate those in a reasonable period of time? And what sort of bureaucratic hoops might he have to jump through to eventually get to his first bottle of wine? This book will only follow him to the end of the first year of the farm, at which point he needs (the reader needs) to see something positive - however minor - that prophesies future success.
Oh, and the other thing I'm confused about is this. Hebén is a white grape, right? So how come it is listed as being paired with other grapes to produce reds (alfrocheiro preto, for example)? Is this normal, and something one would do with such a rare grape, or not? To be honest, I originally wanted the story to be about a red wine grape, because I've lived in Portugal and LOVE Portuguese reds, but it seems my selected grape is pushing me down the white wine route. So, what do you think - white or red? Or am I missing something..?
So there we are - if you have any (polite!) comments, I would be really grateful for them, and will add all names - and the wine spectator forum, of course - to my acknowledgments.