Oastbrook has been practising sustainable winegrowing and winemaking since its inception. Founder America Brewer is a passionate supporter of minimal intervention and soil health. She sees sustainability as a generational concept. ‘Nick and I are growing vines that we hope our children will making wine from, so anything that we do now we have to think sustainably’.
Sustainable Wines of Great Britain
Oastbrook is a member of the new UK SWGB scheme for sustainable vineyard management and America has been adhering to the main aims since setting up the vineyard which include:
- Expanding biodiversity
- Improving soil health
- Reducing pesticide and herbicide use
- Reducing energy input and carbon footprint per hectare grown
Sustainability in the Vineyard
The whole of the hop farm that America took over was accredited as fully organic within three years of her management. She has also been encouraging natural wildflower growth beside Oastbrook’s hedgerows and the brooks that course beside them, Oastbrook, Gypsy Brook, Willow Brook and Channel Brook.
When planting the vineyard America decided to focus on sustainability whilst all the time limiting intervention. America has encouraged white clover as a natural cover crop. This helps prevent soil erosion, is nitrogen fixing and is a great source of nectar for bees. She intentionally minimises spraying, limiting it only to strips and uses mechanical intervention wherever possible. America feels that ‘We saw incredible recovery in soil health when we took the farm organic and we wanted to maintain the organic life in the soils that we had worked so hard on building. We have used traditional techniques such as planting over two hundred roses around the vineyards to give us an early warning sign of disease, this helps us limit and time any necessary intervention’.
Sustainability in the Winery
Oastbrook are focused on reducing energy use in their new winery:
- The design focused on using energy efficient materials that offer high levels of insulation reducing the requirement to regulate heat.
- The picking cycle of grapes has been matched with the size of the presses and the tanks to make sure that energy use is minimised.
- Heating and cooling of tanks in the winery is to be computer regulated for maximum efficiency and great effort is placed into limited use of water and reuse of waste materials.
- All grape skins and solid waste are composted on site.
Nick commented ‘As an estate winery our vineyard is right next to our winery and so transport costs are minimised’ and with your help we aim to sell the majority of wine on site at Oastbrook.
Sustainability in the Hobbit House
The team have taken the same care with their accommodation. The eco-friendly Hobbit House is an earth house, heavily insulated under the mound of earth into which it has been built. The house is heated by underfloor heating powered by an air heat source pump and the waste water is cleaned by a bio digester unit which produces clean water. During the winter when it was down to -5 degrees Celsius the house lost only 4 degrees of heat without any heating being on over a period of 21 days.