The vineyard is certified as organic by the Soil Association, one of only 6 in the UK to achieve this status. No inorganic fertilisers, herbicides or pesticides are used, and the highest environmental standards are maintained.
To improve soil fertility, a legume/green manure mix has been planted between the vine rows. This also helps control weeds and encourages natural insect predators. We have planted a large patch of Russian Comfrey (Symphytum asperimum), which is composted to produce a rich foliar feed for spraying on the vines throughout the summer. Regular foliar and soil analysis is carried out to check nutrient requirements.
The grape varieties were selected partly for their disease resistance. The foliage is regularly cut back to allow air to circulate, and reduce the risk of diseases, such as mildew. Any diseased leaves are quickly removed before disease can spread.
The wine is made by Sedlescombe Organic Vineyard in Sussex which has been making wine for over 20 years. It is also certified by the Soil Association, with any additives being very strictly controlled. The level of sulphites in the 2013 vintage is less than half the amount used in non-organic wines.
The Soil Association logo on the bottle shows that the wine has been certified as organic at every stage of the production process, from vineyard to winery. Only 6 UK vineyards have achieved this.
A bit on the technical side
The use of herbicides is not part of organic management especially in grape production as herbicide residues can be detected in fruit crops. Since planting 10 years ago I have used ‘mypex’ material along the lines of the vines to suppress weeds. However, this is coming to the end of its effective life with holes appearing. Thus, I resowed a range of clovers between the rows last year which fix nitrogen as nutrient for the vines as well as aerating the soils with their deep penetrating root structure. Some clovers also are low growing and spreading and it is these that I am encouraging to spread between the rows and to compete with weeds. I am also developing a strategy that means that the cuttings from between the rows is pushed to one side to mulch within the rows. This will reduce weed growth but also maintain soil moisture.