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Grape: Bacchus, Ortega, Siegerrebe, Faberrebe and Huxelrebe
In 1991 Will Davenport planted 5 acres of vines at Horsmonden in Kent, while simultaneously working for a Hampshire vineyard and, unintentionally, this became the beginning of a life-long business as a wine producer.
26 years later the vineyards now make up 24 acres, grown on 5 parcels of land, 9 grape varieties and a multitude of soil types and micro-climates. The vineyards are mostly at Horsmonden in Kent, with a smaller vineyard next to the winery at Rotherfield, East Sussex.
BACCHUS: A top white variety for still wines, usually made in a Sauvignon Blanc style, although some producers are starting to make lees-aged and oak-aged wines, similar to some Sancerre and Fumé Blanc wines. Commercially it is a valuable variety, with good yields and the ability to shine when very young. FABERREBE: (Pinot Blanc x Müller-Thurgau) Not extensively planted in this country but seems to blend well with Müller-Thurgau. It develops good must weight and, in Germany, can qualify for ‘spätlese’ status. Produces wines that are very fruity with crisp acidity. HUXELREBE:
(Chasselas x Courtillier Musqué) Bred in 1927 in Germany. Has a rather ‘muscat’ style and is a good cropper with good sugar levels. It needs careful management and can be used for dessert wines because of its susceptibility to ‘noble rot’. It has a high natural acidity and strong aromas of elderflowers, producing very fruity wines that age well. SIEGERREBE: A small berried and intensely aromatic variety. One of its parents was the famously spicy Gewürztraminer grape. It ripens sometimes to excessive levels and has a very dominating flavour. It is often used to bolster blended wines and a few growers use it as a varietal in its own right – some for late harvest and dessert wines. ORTEGA: (Müller-Thurgau x Siegerrebe) First introduced to the UK in 1971. This vine suits our climate, although is prone to disease, and is planted widely. It produces very full flavours and high natural sugars and has been used for late harvest wines. When ripe it produces wines that are rich and zesty with good balance. Good for blending with more neutral varieties.
Sussex is one of the oldest and largest counties in England. It was divided into two districts (West and East) in 1832, and today Sussex has the largest cluster of vineyards in the UK with over 700ha planted and over thirty wine producers.
Sussex vineyards are based on a diverse range of soil types, including the iconic chalk of the South Downs. This major geological feature that runs through East and West Sussex has a significant calcareous influence on Sussex vineyards, providing ideal free draining soils for viticulture.
Sussex also benefits from its high latitude, which gives the opportunity to have a longer growing season, enabling grapes to mature to full ripeness, and the wide diurnal temperature range providing ideal growing conditions for Traditional Method quality sparkling and still wine production.
Sussex is also recognised as one of the sunniest and warmest areas in England, classified as having a ‘maritime climate’, with average rainfall typically between 600-850mm per annum.
All the sites are managed using only organic methods. Organic grapes are grown without chemical fertilisers, weedkillers, insecticides and using only a very limited range of fungicides. The aim is to get as close as possible to a natural environment and cause less pollution into the water, soil and air around the vineyard (and then into the wider environment).
By focussing on care for the soil in the vineyard the vines have a balance and health that cannot come from the use of chemicals. Soil biology rather than soil chemistry is the thing. Using composts and manures encourages soil microbes, fungi and bacteria to thrive. These microbes make food for the plants.
Copper and Sulphur are used to control mildew, along with plant extracts made from seaweed, comfrey and nettles.
Organic, wild yeast, cool ferment yeidling fresh crispy wine from English varieties, 20% of the blend in was fermented in large foudres (large oak casks traditionally used in Alsace and Austria) which gives the wine a soft texture and smooth creamy structure.