Get into a discussion about organic winemaking in England and one of the first names to crop up will be Will Davenport. A keen advocate of sustainable farming, he converted his vineyards to become officially recognised organic by the Soil Association in 2000 and has introduced a host of environmental and energy saving initiatives in the Davenport winery. A string of awards for his wines shows that not only are these worthy aims, but that they're also capable of delivering high quality produce capable of competing with the very best of English wines.
Davenport have four vineyards on two sites covering a total planted area of 8.2 ha. Will made his first plantings in 1991 at Horsmonden in Kent on mixed clay/sand soil land belonging to his parents' farm. This 6.5 ha site is planted predominantly with Bacchus, Faber, Huxelrebe, Ortega and Siegerrebe which are used to make a dry white wine. Plantings of Pinot Noir were made to establish the Diamond Fields vineyard here in 2000 and are used to make small quantities of either a red or rosé still table wine.
The Limney Farm estate in East Sussex covers 16 ha, of which 1.7 ha are given over to vines. In an effort to increase biodiversity, the remainder consists of pasture with grazing sheep, ponds and woodland. Former dairy buildings have been converted to house the winery. The Limney vineyard was planted in 1993 on west-facing loamy soils. with Auxerrois and Pinot Noir. These were supplemented with plantings of Chardonnay and Pinot Munier in 2007 to create the Duchy vineyard.
Mildew is an ongoing concern in England's often humid climate and needs to be kept under careful control. This goes for all growers, but organic farmers are required to eschew the use of those fungicides which are potentially harmful to the environment. In keeping with organic farming guidelines on this issue, Davenport make use of defined amounts of sulphur, some copper compounds in certain approved conditions and compost and seaweed solutions.
Improved soil fertility brought about by organic farming methods is thought to have produced healthier vines and improved yields. This in turn has changed the fruit quality and wine styles . In pre-organic days the Davenport wines were lean and crisp, whereas now the style is typically softer with lower acidity.
In 2004 Davenport received £27,000 of Defra funding which enabled them to transform from a small-scale operation into a medium-sized winery business. Their current production is ca. 20,000 bottles per year, which is all sold in the UK. They also make wine under contract for other producers such as Charles Palmer and Forty Hall Vineyard.
Davenport's wines have been winning awards for two decades but arguably their greatest moment in the spotlight came in 2014 when the Limney Estate Sparkling 2009 won the UKVA Vitner's Trophy for the most outstanding sparkling wine and the UKVA's Gore-Brown Trophy for the best large production wine. This was the first time that an organic wine had ever won a UKVA trophy.
For the 2014 vintage, harvesting started on 19 September and finished on 20 October with a total crop of 37.6 tonnes. With very good growing conditions in 2014 there is every chance that this will prove to be another cracking vintage of premium-quality still and sparkling wines from Davenport.
(Images © Davenport Vineyards)
Tel: 01892 852380
Winemaker: Will Davenport
Limney Estate Sparkling Wine
Horsmonden Dry White
Diamond Fields Pinot Noir