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A Chat with Limeburn Hill Wines

A Chat with Limeburn Hill Wines

Limeburn Hill Vineyards based in Chew Magna is brought you by Robin & Georgia who are relatively new to the game but are making the most joyful wines we have tasted. As one of only handful of Biodynamic wine makers in the UK it was so exciting to visit their vineyard in 2020 and were really excited to learn about their approach to winemaking and by the vineyards biodiversity. It's very clear that this is a true labour of love and you can taste this in their wine, read below our interview with them. 

 

 How did you get into wine making ?

We planted the vineyard in 2015 and from that point were always going to make our own wine. Because we work biodynamically there is no separation between the winemaking and the care of the vineyard - it is a single web of energy that connects the land, the soil, the sun, the rain, the wildlife, the vines, the people, the grapes and the wine. So in order to link all of these things together we had to learn how to make wine!


What does Biodynamic winemaking mean to you ?


Biodynamic winemaking is the process by which the spirit of a particular place is nourished, celebrated and allowed to express itself in a wine. We call it biodynamic wine-growing instead of wine-making as it is the work in the vineyard that creates the wine. The role of the wine ‘maker’ is simply to enable the transformation of the grapes into wine with as little manipulation as possible - more guiding than controlling. In this way the wine can express not only the spirit of place but also the story of the year. Our two main tenets of winemaking are:


1 - it is the vineyard that creates the wine, not the winery, 

and

2 - the wine tells the story of the year, not the story of the winemaker.



What are the risks involved with Biodynamic winemaking vs conventional wine ?


The main risk with biodynamic wine-growing is that your wine expresses a greater sense of place - this is a risk we are willing to take!

Typically, although not always, the yield from a biodynamic vineyard is slightly smaller than a chemically driven vineyard. This is because we do not use artificial chemicals and fertilisers to boost the vines unnaturally. We also have a great diversity of flora in the vineyard growing under the vines which, initially, competes with the vines, but ultimately encourages a deeper root structure, better soil life and greater resilience of the vines.

In biodynamics we don’t use systemic chemicals on the land or vines at all even though these are the most ‘effective’ instant treatments against mildew. Our approach is to focus on the health of the vines - a salutogenic approach - instead of fighting disease. This is a more time consuming and physically demanding approach, as we need to make and apply natural teas and feeds regularly. These include teas made from nettle, horsetail, willow, comfrey, dandelion, valerian, oak bark and chamomile, plus biodynamic compost teas and natural mineral sprays. Almost everything we use is grown and made on the vineyard, which is time consuming but also intensifies the spirit of place that comes through in the wines.


Which grape varieties do you use and How did you choose them ?


We have 8 grape varieties - 3 red (Rondo, Regent and Pinot Noir) and 5 white (Solaris, Orion, Johanniter, Seyval Blanc and Sauvignac). All of these, except for Pinot Noir, are hybrid varieties that have been developed to encourage disease resistance and better ripening in cooler climates. We planted this number of varieties because we had no idea about what would grow well - only now are we beginning to discover which ones are more suited to this particular place. The diversity of variety also allows us to experiment with different wine types and combinations, and respond to the differing conditions of each particular year more effectively.


Who in the wine world do you look up to ? Who if any have you learned from ?


Interestingly our main influences are not from the wine world. We both come from a background of ecological design and sustainability - not wine - and it is this interest that has influenced our approach to wine-growing most directly. We are inspired by the natural world and always seek to improve the health of the planet through our wine-growing. We are also inspired by amazing landscapes, those that are full of life, spirit and a sense of place. These inspirations help guide us to answer questions when they arise.

Within the world of wine we are very much inspired by Birgit Braunstein in Burgenland, Austria. Her approach combines all the things we value - a deep love of the land, a care for all living beings, and a spiritual connection with place. And her wines are phenomenally good, a level we can only aspire to.


Tell us about your latest releases Samhain and Lammas ?


Lammas 2020 is a Pet Nat Rosé made from Pinot Noir and Seyval Blanc. As with all of our wines it is 100% natural, using wild yeast from the vineyard for the fermentation, with no additives at all (including sulphites), and is unfiltered and unfined. It has a great balance of red fruits, stone fruit, some citrus and a soft acidity. It is 9.5% ABV, with a great mouth feel due to the skin contact during fermentation and 6 months spent on the lees.

Samhain 2020 is a Pet Nat Red made from Rondo, Regent and Solaris (2 red grapes and a white grape). This is an exciting wine with the deepest of red colours and fuschia-pink bubbles! It is packed with red and black fruit, with a hint of spice and pepper, herbal notes and a subtle earthiness. It is 12% ABV with an amazing mouth feel and long finish.


We hope you had a fruitful harvest, how has this year’s harvest been?


This year’s harvests have been excellent with a very good yield of high quality fruit. Two of our wines are already in bottle - the Samhain 2021 (Pet Nat Red) and the Beltain 2021 (Pet Nat Amber). The Lammas 2021 is still fermenting in tank waiting until it reaches the perfect sugar level to bottle, and then to finish fermentation in the bottle over winter. 

We were helped with all of our harvests by lots of friends and family, so sincere thanks to everyone who gave us their love, time and energy, all of which will end up in the wines next year…!

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