Making English wines since 1991
What is organic, natural and sustainable?
Winemaking is a natural process and any fruit, if left, will eventually ferment. We believe that the route to making the best wines is to work with nature and this has to begin with organic grapes. The fruit then becomes a true expression of the grape variety and the soil that it grows in. Chemical fertilisers and pesticides are there to make life easy for the vineyard manager, but often result in wine that lacks character and balance. Some of the chemicals have been proven to leave a residue in the wine that the customer drinks.
In today's world it is important to preserve our environment for future generations. Everything we do has some impact on the environement, including making wine. We try to make our wines with as little energy as possible, mostly generated on site by solar panels. The winery generates more electricity that it uses, and when we need to buy in electricity we buy from 100% renewable sources. We also consider the footprint of every aspect, from grapes to water consumption and packaging. When you receive a wine delivery from us you might not notice that the bottle is lighter weight than most wines bottles, the cork is natural cork from Portugal, the label is FSC certified paper, the carton is made from 100% recycled board and any courier packaging is fully recyclable. We are working to be 100% plastic-free this year. All the packaging should be easily recycled.
We are not members of the WineGB sustainability scheme (SWGB) because we believe that their standards are not tough enough, they allow the use of glyphosate and other pesticides, along with almost anything else that the wine producer wants to do.
in 2000 we started investigating how to improve the biodiversity in our vineyards and surrounding land. We have changed the management to leave areas un-mowed to create a habitat for insects and grass seeds for birds. We've installed 20 bird nesting boxes in 2000 and 6 Kestrel boxes and 3 barn owl boxes. We have a successful breeding pair of kestrels that have raised 15 chicks over the last 3 years and barn owls breeding in one of our boxes. The fields around the winery are managed as wildflower hay meadows (previously grazed by cattle and sheep). Hedges are trimmed only when absolutely needed, often on a 4 or 5 year cycle, sometimes longer, so that they provide a mix of habitats for nesting birds. It has the look of being unmanaged, but it takes a lot of time to create that look!
Recently we have seen a growth in interest in natural wines, many are cloudy and taste unique, following the trend for craft beers and cider. However some are made from grapes that have been grown with chemical fungicides and herbicides. For us the starting point is organic certification in the vineyard and without that no wine producer can make anything that can be described as Natural. Always look for the organic / biodynamic logo first if you want to make sure the vineyard is managed without chemicals.
The non-organic vines that we have recently taken on have been managed with intensive use of chemicals over their lives. So we are reducing the chemical use and the types of chemicals (absolutely no herbicides or chemical fertilisers have been used in the last 2 years). Effectively we allowing the soil to recover and the vines to wean themselves off chemical dependancy. Our hope is that after about 5 years the vines will be close to organic. A term often used for this type of management is regenerative viticulture because the soil is being regerated back to life.
Organic grapes are grown without chemical fertilisers, insecticides or herbicides. Weeds are controlled by mowing and cultivation. Soil fertility is maintained with animal manures and plant compost. We use sulphur and copper to control mildew in place of synthetic fungicides. We also make our own liquid feed for the vines using comfrey, horsetail and nettles.
Organic wine is made similar to non-organic wine, except that the levels of sulphites used must be below 100 mg/L (less than half of the allowed limit for non-organic wines) and some fining agents are not allowed. Most of our wines go well beyond these restrictions (see natural wines).
In addition to the organic winemaking restrictions, Will has decided to make the wines as naturally as possible. This involves not adding commercial yeasts, keeping sulphites as low as possible (sometimes with no sulphur addition at all) and avoiding filtration wherever possible. Fining agents (except bentonite clay) are not used at all.
Wine production has an environmental cost. Our solar panels generate more than enough electricity to run the winery for a year. We reduce water consumption and energy use in everything we do. Our cartons are made from recycled board, FSC certified and fully recyclable. We use lightweight bottles, using less glass and saving energy in glass manufacture and transport. Our wines are sealed with a natural cork from Portugal.
Limney Farm, the 38 acre farm surrounding the winery, originally occupied in Roman times, is managed for wildlife under the Countryside Stewardship Scheme. We try to promote wildflower meadows, ancient woodlands, traditional small fields with miles of hedgerows, 4 ponds, ghylls and streams. we have a flock of Wiltshire Horn sheep, honey from our bee hives, home grown vegetables and eggs. It is a typical Sussex Wealden farm landscape and we feel privileged to be a part of its story.
Our wine is made without any animal products at any stage in the winemaking and is suitable for vegetarian and vegan diets