English wines at The Real Wine Fair? As the French are wont to say “Gorblimey!” or as the English say: “Nom d’un Chien, Mille Tonnerres!!”
We begin on the roasted slopes and occasionally drowned downs of North London at Forty Hall Vineyard, an innovative volunteer-led-and-managed social enterprise and London’s only commercial-scale organic vineyard. Forty Hall Vineyard is situated at Forty Hall Farm on the Forty Hall Estate in Enfield, North London. That’s One Hundred and Twenty Hall and counting.
The community vineyard is part of a wider project of the farm which is fast becoming a local food hub, bringing together people from Enfield and across London, often from deprived and marginalised communities, to become involved in the growing, cooking and eating of local food. Both farm and vineyard are certified organic, and are dedicated to demonstrating environmentally sustainable practices.
No synthetic fungicides, herbicides or fertilisers are used in order to encourage sustainability, biodiversity and natural balance. The vines grow in a living soil, free of chemical residues, drawing optimum levels of minerals from the soil, becoming stronger with better natural resistance to disease. Pests are controlled by biological methods such as the planned release of ladybirds which eat vine aphids and spiders. Mildew problems may also be managed with salts such as copper sulphate and elemental (not man-made) sulphur; the use of these sprays is carefully controlled and limited. The vineyard is being converted to biodynamic viticulture.
The vineyard comprises 10 acres of vines planted in a south-facing, gravelly plot, from which the aim is to make quality still and sparkling wines. The varieties that have been planted include Bacchus, Chardonnay, Ortega, Pinot Meunier and Pinot Noir.
At Davenport Vineyards Will Davenport has been making wines for nearly 20 years, building from a small start up to a collection of vineyard sites that total 20 acres. Each vineyard site has a specific character that is beginning to come out in the wines. The aim is to make wine of the highest quality possible and to make wine that is a true expression of their grape varieties, soil and climate of the vineyards. He believes that the best way to achieve this is by interfering as little as possible and letting nature take its course (with a modicum of guidance of course). The use of organic methods helps to bring the desired results and has the benefit of also minimising the impact on the environment. Copper and sulphur are used to control mildew, along with plant extracts made from seaweed, comfrey and nettles.
Since 1993, Davenport have won numerous awards for their wines, converted all their vineyards to organic management, and put together a winery that is one of the only organic certified wineries in the UK fully equipped to make still and sparkling wines to the highest standards. Even after 20 years, there are constant improvements and changes taking place every year, new wine styles, new ideas for growing grapes in a more sustainable way and upgrading of equipment.
The Limney brand is made in small volumes. Grapegrowing and winemaking is treated as a hands-on craft rather than a large scale process. This gives each vintage and wine its own unique character.
Winemaking is as natural as possible. Natural yeasts are used and there is no fining or filtration and sulphur is kept to well below the organic limit. The sparkling wine is particular low in sulphur. In 2013 there will be four wines: two sparkling, a Pinot Noir rosé and the Limney white, a blend of five grape varieties.