Last May we went to East Sussex for a friend’s retirement party which gave us the opportunity to visit Sedlescombe Vineyard, with the delightful added bonus of walking amongst bluebells in full bloom on their woodland walk.
Sedlescombe was the first organic vineyard in Great Britain.
Owner, doughty Roy Cook, inherited ten acres of land near Sedlescombe, East Sussex in 1974. Seizing the opportunity to quit the ratrace he began his new existence in modest style in a simple caravan, and set out to grow sufficient organic food to provide a basic diet – and a surplus that could be turned into cash to meet his other needs.
As with many dreams of this kind, the lifestyle proved very hard…
Necessity, being as always the mother of invention, Roy set out to utilise his land in other ways.
“I was in the South East where the revival in English wines was beginning, and the land I owned was on a south-facing slope, exposed to the sun. I wasn’t at the bottom of a valley where you get frost and wasn’t at the top where you get high winds. It was ideal.”
Roy started with 2,000 plants on one and a half acres in 1979. Today the vineyard has expanded to 23 acres, which includes the vineyard at Bodiam Castle converted to organics in 1994 and the vineyard at Spilstead converted in 2006.
In Spring 2010 Sedlescombe became biodynamic, receiving Demeter accreditation under standards set by the Biodynamic Association.
Although the vines were a good three weeks behind in their development due to the cold, wet Spring, they were looking delightful in their grass carpeted vineyard. A perfect compliment to the bluebells resplendent in the woods!
To round off our visit we tasted some of the Sedlescombe wines in the attractively rustic tasting room, befitting of the whole charm of this English biodynamic winery.
Sedlescombe Bodiam Brut Vintage 2009
Very pale gold, good mousse. Dry, bright acidity, yeasty, appley, long.
Produced from whole bunch pressed Pinot Noir & Chardonnay grapes.
Sedlescombe 2011 First Release
Pale gold. Almondy apricot, dry, with a refreshing hint of bitterness.
Second vintage of the first Biodynamic English wine! A blend of Bacchus, Riechensteiner and Johanniter.
Sedlescombe 2011 Pinot Noir and Dornfelder Rosé
Coral pink. Plump elderberry grenadine, dry with refreshing acidity.
Sedlescombe 2010 Regent
Pale ruby. Blackberry and citrus. Dry, good acidity and soft tannins with a touch of black cherry on the finish.
Aged in barrique.
Sedlescombe 2011 Solaris
Pale gold. Sweet white currants, yellow peaches, gently sweet, good acidity. Attractively fruity with a hint bitterness.
Produced from unchapitalized, late-picked Sedlescombe Solaris grapes from the exceptional 2011 vintage.
As well as organic fruit juices and cider there are liqueurs – this is the one I really enjoyed:
Sedlescombe Organic Raspberry Liqueur
Grown up raspberries!
Try this poured over lime sorbet.
We had a lovely spring day combining meeting old friends, walking amongst the bluebells and discovering a truly unique English vineyard.
Sedlescombe is a fascinating English winery to visit where you can combine a vineyard and woodland walk with a wine tasting, appreciating all the hard work and care that goes into the production of organic and biodynamic wines.
Wine Travel Guides has ideas about other English vineyards, and the English Wine Producers website is full of useful information.
Sedlescombe Organic Vineyard
Hawkhurst Rd, Cripps Corner
Robertsbridge, East Sussex TN32 5SA