Monty Waldin writes: Sedlescombe in East Sussex is England’s oldest organic vineyard. If this makes it sound stuffy it's anything but as visitors to this Sussex winery will soon find.
Roy and Irma Cook planted their vines from 1979 when English wine was seen as a bit of a joke. The fact that the Cooks planted Sedlescombe as organic raised eyebrows even further. Nevertheless Sedlescombe’s white wines have been consistently wonderful examples of what I think makes English wine so appetising: vivid fruit flavours, tongue-tingling freshness and only moderate levels of alcohol.
The rolling vineyards lie in several distinct plots in some of Britain’s most beautiful countryside, locally known as ‘1066 country’ after the historic Battle of Hastings. As well as the whites, Sedlescombe makes a rich, ripe oak-aged red wine from a grape called Regent which – unlike many other reds – is perfectly adapted to the organic, minimal spraying regime favoured here.
When I visit, I love the fact that I can chat with volunteers from all over the world who come to work at Sedlescombe as WWOOFers participating in the World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farm (www.wwoof.org); and that the Cooks’ Rent-a-Vine scheme gets discounted rates on Sedlescombe wines and even the chance of picking the grapes each harvest.
Ever the pioneers, Sedlescombe is now working biodynamically to take advantage of lunar and other natural cycles which beneficially affect how vines grow. In this way the wines will show an even stronger expression of what the French call ‘terroir’, meaning Sedlescombe’s wines will express a real sense of place allied to their unrivalled organic heritage.
Wine producer & author Monty Waldin starred in Channel 4’s Chateau Monty, about the birth of his own biodynamic winery. He now lives in Tuscany where he has made a wine called Monty’s Tuscan Red. His latest book, Monty Waldin’s Biodynamic Wine Guide 2011 profiling Sedlescombe and 1,500 other bio-wine estates worldwide has just been published on www.lulu.com