We think not just in terms of the next few vintages but the next generations. We want to be producing wine at our site for many years to come and so sustainability is key to our practise.
Since we took over in 2017, we have moved towards a more sustainable approach. In 2018, we halved herbicide spraying, reducing it each year. We have reduced non-organic spraying to annually and we do not use insecticides.
We believe that small, simple, acts cumulatively make a big difference – from supporting and working with local businesses, recycling and composting to creative ways of reusing our waste and byproducts.
This philosophy extends to the brand’s aesthetic - our labels with their close-up illustrations of our soil, rocks and wines under microscopes celebrate every detail of the land. We discuss our practises openly on social media to try and extend this narrative and communicate the importance of sustainability to our brand.
Soil & Vines
In the vineyard, our goal is to grow the best grapes that we can while protecting and strengthening the soil. We combine organic, sustainable and conventional practices, minimising chemical intervention, conserving our vineyard and surrounding environment and promoting biodiversity.
One of the most sustainable things we’ve done is also one of the most simple: selecting an ideal site on which to plant. We made extremely detailed surveys of the site before we planted to ensure that we would be able to grow healthy fruit with minimal disease and frost risks. Those vineyards which are at risk of frost may need to use unsustainable practises such as heating the land with bougies or machinery to protect a crop and we were keen to avoid this.
We maintain soil health by planting cover crops to protect the delicate balance of the soil and protect it from heavy rains which can wash away valuable nutrients. We also add organic matter - green compost which improves the structure of the soil and its fertility as well as rotted down grape skins and nettle tea which we make at the vineyard. We also test soil health to ensure that nutrients are added precisely and only when needed.
We have reduced non-organic spraying to one annually and we do not use insecticides.
Our wildflower meadow at the top of the vineyard is a-buzz with pollinators in the summer. It also plays host to a huge range of beautiful plants including the rare wood anemone, Westwell Pink - a small plant which is exclusive to the area. Our unmown headland is a perfect habitat for hares, rabbits and pheasants and many more insects and spiders.
Westwell boasts its own borehole which we use for everything from cleaning our tanks and press to drinking. Whilst water is a key part of winemaking, we don’t water the vines - their deep, developed roots are able to spread down into the earth and get their moisture there.
Byproducts / Production
We make minimal chemical additions to our wines, utilising the natural yeasts on the fruit in order to ferment. We take the lees and grape skins to Burning Sky to use for their ales. Together, we have produced 2 ‘saisons’ and are currently collaborating on further products. We’ve also worked with Vault Vermouth on a vermouth. We are also exploring methods of using additional wine ‘waste’ products to produce more styles of wine at Westwell. Watch this space! Any organic matter which can’t be repurposed in this way is rotted down and put back into the soil.
We are constantly striving to find new innovative ways to grow, make, package and deliver our wines. Partnerships with likeminded companies are key to what we do and so we’re delighted to have teamed up with Uncharted wine as a distributor who share our commitment to sustainability. Together, we are the first English producers to put our wine into kegs. Our kegs have a capacity of 20 litres. this is the same volume as 27 bottles which would weigh 17kg just for the glass - a keg with the same capacity weighs 1.1kg and the wine contained within remains fresh for longer than a traditional opened bottle. Kegs help to reduce electricity usage as they don’t need to be stored at cold temperatures. The dispensing units instantly chill the wine reducing the amount of electricity needed and the associated costs involved.
In addition to this, all of our wine boxes are made from recycled card and many of our wines have a metal screw or crown cap which can be recycled.
Currently the energy we do use is not green, but we are discussing this with our supplier. We are also looking to install solar energy panels over the next 5 years.
Sustainable means more than just our practises in the vineyard. We work with like-minded businesses, too, to keep a closed loop.
We have good relationships with many local Kentish businesses and continue to explore this market in order to minimise our carbon footprint. Selling locally is a simple, easy way to do this!
We are continually evolving our practices to ensure that over time, we can continue to reduce vineyard energy inputs and greenhouse gas emissions. With any future developments, we are committed to keeping Westwell sustainable and, wherever possible, increasing our sustainable practices.