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Langham winemaker leaves to establish sustainable winery

Published:  07 February, 2020

The head winemaker at Dorset winery Langham Estate has branched out on his own to embark on a sustainable winemaking venture.  

After 10 years in the English wine industry, Daniel Ham said he had decided to establish his own small sustainable winery on a biodynamic vineyard in Wiltshire in line with his own interest in recent years having veered more and more towards sustainable winegrowing. 

Having worked and visited many wine regions around the world, Ham said he was often "shocked at how far behind the English wine industry is in this regard”. 

“I strongly believe that reducing inputs and promoting biodiversity both in the vineyard and winery is not only better for the natural environment but produces more characterful and terroir focused wines."

The new winery, located on the edge of Salisbury, will house a rare, square traditional Coquard basket press brought in from Champagne. 

To make the building as environmentally friendly as possible, the floor has been partially sunk into the surrounding chalk to provide natural temperature control and electricity will be generated from a bank of solar panels on the roof. 

In turn, this renewable energy will be used to power the entire winery, including an electric forklift.

Production in the new facility will be limited to around 30,000 bottles a year with around 10,000 falling under the Offbeat label, which Ham began producing natural wines under while still at Langham. The remainder will be made under contract for other growers. 

After graduating from Plumpton College Ham went on to become Winemaker at Ridgeview Wine Estate in Sussex, and in 2015 moved to Langham Estate as head winemaker and director. 

The opportunity to pursue his own project was largely due to a chance encounter with Hugo Stewart - co-founder of the biodynamic Les Clos Perdus in South West France, who after years of sustainable wine production in France decided to establish a biodynamic vineyard on his family farm in Downton, Wiltshire. 

“I instantly felt an affiliation with Hugo’s approach to farming and that’s when the idea of establishing a winery at the farm began to take shape,” said Ham. 

One of the most exciting aspects of the new project would be to offer contract clients an unconventional winemaking service, whereby Offbeat can produce alternative wine styles such as pet nat, col fondo or skin contact wines, he added. 

“There are many older vineyards in the UK that are planted with unfashionable disease-resistant hybrid varieties. These vines often produce excellent quality fruit with very little chemical intervention but the ability to successfully market the resulting wines sometimes requires thinking outside the box”.

Offbeat’s debut wine sold out within a matter of weeks in 2019, with three new wines due for release in early summer 2020.