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Organic and Biodynamic Wines in Sussex – Sedlescombe Vineyard and Winery:
A visit to Sussex these days isn’t complete without a vineyard tour. Sedlescombe, though, is something special as the UK’s oldest organic vineyard. Now it is also operated under biodynamic principles.
The entrance from the road to the vineyard, a large gravelled car park, is no real indication of what you’ll find once you reach Roy Cook’s winery. Perhaps because the tradition of wine making in England has only been revived in recent years, many of the wineries I’ve visited have been fitted with the latest equipment. At best, the technology allows the wine maker to manage the unpredictabilities of English weather more easily. At worst automation results in a loss of passion. At Sedlescombe, the set-up is closer to a family run French or Italian winery and Roy’s obvious enthusiasm, though tempered with commercial sensibility, shines through.
Having inheritated a plot of land, he was happily living ‘The Good Life’, growing organic vegetables and living in a caravan. The land was south facing and perfectly sited for growing vines and the soil just the right level of chalkiness. Roy and his wife Irma, set out to learn how to make the most of their ‘Terroir’ . Roy told us that while organic was an obvious route, the move to biodynamic came more recently, in 2010, at the instigation of the previous vineyard manager. I’ve always been a little mystified by the concept of biodynamic wine and was pleased to be given a no-nonsense explanation by Roy.
The mainstay of biodynamic cultivation is the use of two special preparations. BD500 is a concoction of cow manure used to fill in cow horns that are buried in the soil for the winter. It is supposed to kick start the soil micro-organisms. BD501, is silica, again buried in the soil in cow horns, this time for the summer. This is intended to improve photosynthysis. Of course there’s a lot more that that – a whole range of preparations and practises that include following the moon and the planets as a guide to cultivation.
Of course, what really matters though, is the end result. And the wine is really very good. We tasted our way through various vintages and varieties. My favourite? The deep pink Cuvee Rose Brut 2010, which is a biodynamic wine from regent and pinot noir grapea. Full of stone fruit flavours, it’s a great wine for midsummer drinking. And it won a gold medal in the 2014 international organic wines challenge.
I liked Sedlescombe a lot. We wandered around the vineyard tour – through copse and field, we took a look at the self build house that was constructed in just three weeks in 1986 and is still standing today, and we tasted a lot of wine. It was relaxing and fun. And the wine was very good!
Oh, and Simon even got to do the obligatory vineyard shot, lying prostate worshiping the grape with his camera.
Open all day for most of the year, visitors can enjoy a range of different tours of the vineyard- with the offer of afternoon tea or ploughman’s lunch and a wine tasting session for just £49.50 for two. Roy told us that if you prefer to come by train, the local station is a pleasant hiking distance, so you could easily catch the train and walk to the vineyard for lunch or tea. Wine tasting and teas take place in the ‘Bar in a Barn’ , just next door to the winery itself.
After our walk around the vineyard and tasting session we headed for Battle for a quick tour of the Abbey. Then, our second ‘terroir’ experience, a splendid dinner at Nobles, just a few minutes walk from the Abbey itself.
Paul Noble, chef proprietor of the restaurant came out to tell us a little about his ethos. While Nobles isn’t quite somewhere that can claim farm to fork, it is evident from the menu that there’s more than just a nod to local seasonal sourcing. How about ‘Risotto of Wealdway ash goats cheese and sunblushed tomato for example.
or steamed fenugreek and turmeric chicken with homemade coleslaw and Indian flat bread.
And that was just for starters!
Although we were both very tempted, we wanted to let Paul cook – so, passed on the ‘local Sussex steak experience’ .
Instead, roast saddle of local lamb and braised belly with mint crushed potato, pea and spinach – a rather posh take on a Sunday lunch.
And in my case a fish mixed grill with buttered new potatoes, mussels, clams and shellfish bisque.
It was a great place to round off the day and enjoy a dinner of local produce beautifully cooked and presented elegantly in a friendly environment.
Apart from excellent food, Nobles has an extremely well-priced wine list, in itself worth visiting to try.
This was my first visit to 1066 country for a while – but I’m sure I’ll be back soon to discover more.
Find out more about Sedlescombe Organic and Biodynamic Vineyard on their website.
We were guests of 1066 Country for our visit to Battle and Sedlescombe Organic Wines.