The understandable trend towards “natural” growing and more natural methods is certainly present in wine. I’m not sure if the traditional vineyards feel under pressure to change what they do, maybe they feel that is impossible. If I have this right, “organic” needs a certification, and “natural” doesn’t, but might be organic or nearly so. Please comment at firstname.lastname@example.org or on social media: twitter @vinelivescom or Instagram @Vine.Lives. Anyway, below learn of the experiences of the owners at Terlingham Vineyard in Kent. Ed.
We are a boutique, family-run vineyard who are passionate about growing scrumptious fruit and producing unique and delicious English wines with integrity.
What we are up to on the vineyard
Winter on a vineyard means one thing: Pruning Season! We’re well on our way with pruning our 5,500 vines across our two vineyards. We start mid-January and aim to finish by the end of March each year. We do everything by hand, which does take a little longer, but it means that each vine has been tended to with individual love, care and attention.
Pruning can be a difficult time for a vineyard. When you cut into the plant, you could be inviting trunk disease into a healthy vine. This year we looked for a wound seal that was organic, and didn’t have any luck. So we decided to experiment with our own organic seal, made with beeswax and a few other natural ingredients. It has so far stood up against hail, a bit of snow and some heavy rain. We believe that looking after our vines also means looking after the environment, as a happy and healthy vineyard provides the tastiest of wines.
We will be expecting budburst in about April when the next ‘burst’ of vineyard activities will commence.
The Terlingham Story
Our four-acre vineyard is situated just north of Folkestone on the Kent North Downs, with fabulous views over the English Channel to France. We grow Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier, Chardonnay, Bacchus, Dornfelder and Rondo grapes and all our wines are made from only the grapes grown by us here at Terlingham.
The vineyard was planted in 2006 and three years ago we embarked on the exciting journey of producing natural wines and using exclusively natural farming techniques. Our third year went exceptionally well, with a record yield, no disease and absolutely minimal harm caused to our vineyard and surrounding environment due to our natural farming methods!
Our Natural Wine
Natural wine. It’s a term that can cause lots of healthy debate as there is no real definition and no certification, as there is for organic wines.
For us, natural wine means that:
Other than the minimal use of some copper and sulphur, we don’t use any artificial chemical fertilisers, pesticides, fungicides or herbicides. We believe that careful personal management of the vines by hand allows for early detection and treatment of any diseases.
All work in the vineyard and on the vines, including pruning and harvesting, is done by hand with the help of family and friends (always followed by hard-earned lunches and plenty of wine!)
We allow the natural flora to blossom beneath our vines and we are always delighted to see the return of natural grasses and flowers (and a few weeds!) and the butterflies, ladybirds and spiders that accompany them.
In the wine-making process we do not add any commercial yeast and rely on wild native yeasts for the fermentation of our still wines and the first fermentation of our sparkling wines.
We do not add any sugars (chaptalisation) in the initial fermentations, use any animal or dairy products (no finings) or make any adjustments for acidity.
Additionally, we do not use any chemical additives or preservatives (except very small amounts of sulphur) in the production process.
In essence, our ethos is, “nothing added, nothing taken away”.
Making natural wine is a much riskier business as you cannot rely on the control and stability offered by conventional wine-making techniques, which are designed to allow winemakers to achieve consistent flavours year in and year out. The unpredictability and nature of natural wine (although often a bit nerve-wracking for the winemaker – especially for new enthusiasts like Terlingham) results in exciting and unique flavours each harvest, which we also hope appeal to the taste buds.
We are continually learning and improving how we tend to our vineyard and how we make our natural wine. So far we are thoroughly enjoying this ever-evolving process.