Come and see how English wine is made with precision and passion in the heart of Sussex. From vine to grape to glass, winemaking director & founder, Simon Woodhead will take you on a unique tour and taste of Stopham Vineyard. Its aim is to make the best still white wine in England.
Nestled in Britain’s newest National Park, the picturesque South Downs.
- Using the latest winemaking technology.
- Meeting / Conference Facilities:
- Wedding Facilities:
- Picnic Facilities:
- Dog Friendly:
- Winery Tours:
- Wine Tasting:
- Art or Architecture:
- Organic / Biodynamic:
- Wine Club:
- Lodging / Bed & Breakfast:
Simon was joined by Tom Bartlett in 2010 just in time for the first vintage. Both Simon and Tom studied at Plumpton College in East Sussex, where they became passionate about English wine and developed the belief that we can produce something special from our land.
Simon used to design automotive sensors at TAG McLaren F1 before studying Viticulture at Plumpton Agricultural College in East Sussex.
Tom Bartlett, Assistant Winemaker:
Tom also studied Viticulture at Plumpton Agricultural College, graduating in 2012. Tom has also done vintages in California and New Zealand.
Kivlan O'Brien, Harvest Manager:
Kivlan is a professional gardener in Hampstead, but joins us each year to manage the harvest and grape processing.
Practices & Techniques
Our sustainability[*] is important to our business and our customers - not just from an ethical perspective, but also to maintain a natural ecosystem that is best for our vines and, ultimately, our wine.
We are lucky to work within an area of outstanding natural beauty in the South Downs National Park. We can't miss the daily reminder of how important it is to respect and protect the environment on which we depend.
That is why we consider the sustainability of every decision we make at Stopham Vineyard.
Local River quality:
Vines thrive in free-draining soil such as the sandy loam soil that we have in the vineyard. Free-draining soil minimises run-off to the surrounding environment, including the adjacent Rivers Arun and Rother. We don’t routinely plough the site (the last time was in 2008), allowing grass to cover the entire vineyard which reduces run-off and erosion even further. We maintain grass and weed cover by mowing and we strim the weeds under the vines. We spray two applications of herbicide each year during the growing season. To avoid soil compaction from using the tractor down each row, which can damage soil activity, we sub-soil the tractor ruts.
In 2014, we plan to buy a tractor hoe for weeding directly under the vines where the mower cannot reach. This will remove the need for any herbicides.
Looking after the soil is key to improving the quality of our grapes. Our soil management techniques prioritise excellent long-term soil standards over short-term vine growth. We add manure produced by cattle on the estate to improve the soil structure, benefiting the soil ecosystem and improving nutrient retention. Due to the very sandy soil on the site, we will never be able to rely on organic matter alone. So, once a year, we apply manufactured fertilisers, the amount being carefully calculated through detailed soil and leaf analysis, to replace the nutrients lost from the soil in producing the grapes.
Vines worldwide are clones of one another. There is no sexual reproduction to promote diversity or evolving resistance to fungal infections. That means fungicide has to be sprayed onto vines to protect their health. There is tight control on the use of fungicides for grape vines in the UK. However, we take an integrated approach to disease management – avoiding routine spraying and only using fungicide if weather conditions or the occurrence of a disease demand treatment. We use an environmentally friendly LIPCO tunnel-type sprayer which recycles the spray that it is captured by leaves and virtually eliminates spray drift.
Many of the techniques we use benefit biodiversity and promote a natural ecosystem. Our vineyard is adjacent to a 1ha arboretum and is surrounded by well-established oak, chestnut trees and natural hedges. In 2010, we created an additional 400 metres of natural English hedgerow. We are planning to install owl boxes in the future.
We do not use much water. As classic Mediterranean plants with roots of up to 6 metres, our vines do not need irrigating. Water, of course, is not added to the wine so our main use of water is limited in the winery for washing out tanks. Here we use an efficient pressure hose and steamer.
Energy, greenhouse gases and waste
Chilling our fermentation tanks is where we use most of our energy. Our refrigeration system comes on as required to maintain the right temperature for a constant, gentle rate of fermentation, which can last up to 6 weeks. We supply wine to customers throughout England, with most sales concentrated in the South East. In terms of carbon footprint, buying English wine is clearly far more sustainable than buying wines that are shipped to the UK from around the world! We recycle all our organic waste (e.g. grape skins, stems and vine prunings) on site and fertiliser and fungicide containers are sent to an approved waste contractor. We source our bottles from Northern France as they are not yet available in the UK.
Estate Vineyards / AVA
Most of our production is for still white wine made from Pinot Gris and Pinot Blanc vines. We also have Bacchus and Auxerrois for blending, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir for sparkling and Dornfelder for rosé. The vineyard is in an area of outstanding natural beauty in West Sussex and forms part of the South Downs National Park.
Vines produce the best fruit on free draining soil, like the sand we have at Stopham. Vine roots can extend more than 6m in the ground making them drought proof once established. However this free draining soil creates challenges which we must address. Firstly, we have had to increase the organic matter in the soil using copious amounts of manure from the Stopham cattle, as well as add fertiliser. Also, rabbits enjoy burrowing in this sand so we always keep a spade handy in the tractor just in case we come across a hole. Sandy soil is acidic, which inhibits nutrient uptake so we have been using lime to increase the pH (to 6.8) over the establishment years.
The vines take a minimum of five years before they reach full size and a lot of work is required to train them appropriately.
The vines were planted by a specialist planting team from Germany using lasers to guide the planting tractor at precise distances from the preceding row.
We space the rows wide enough to allow good sun exposure.
Before planting, the field had been harrowed and sub-soiled so the new vines slotted easily into the soil.
Weather is the key challenge to yield in England. It is said that for every three years, there is one bad year, one medium year and one good year.
The hurdles to overcome include frost just after the vines start growing in April and May, rain during flowering in June/July and the need for a warm ripening period in September.