Sedlescombe is a Biodynamic estate winery in East Sussex in the south of England. The vineyard was established by Roy and Irma Cook in 1979 as organic from scratch. This makes it the second oldest organic vineyard in the UK after Chevelswarde (the Sedlescombe website claims to be the UK’s first organic vineyard, but although organic since 1974 as you will see below, no vines were planted here until 1979). Roy and Irma produced England’s first biodynamic English wine in 2010. They have now retired, and sold Sedlescombe to Sophie and Kieran Balmer, who are local to the area.
Sedlescombe Vineyard: In 1974 Roy Cook inherited 4-ha of land at Sedlescombe and lived on site in a caravan while growing organic vegetables. When he realised the south-facing hill was a good site for wine, and with interest in wine starting to take off in England, he planted a vineyard instead. The first vines (2,000 in all on 1.5 acres) were planted in 1979. Roy selected 2,000 cuttings from his neighbour’s vineyard. Roy had pruned these vines in the winter of 1978. One thousand cuttings each of Reichensteiner and Gutenborner were planted (on their own roots). The Gutenborner was planted originally at 4 foot by 3 foot, but Roy subsequently took out every other row to leave the vines spaaced at 8 foot by 6 foot. The Reichensteiner was planted at 8 foot by 6 foot right from the start. The total area planted was one and a half acres. These vines were eventally grubbed up in 2000 in favour of interspecific crossings such as Regent and Rondo, both red wine varieties to cater for increased demand for red wine and to anticipate an eventual ban on copper-based fungicides within the EU.
Millennium Vineyard: A 6 acre (2.43-ha) field was acquired in 1998 from a neighbour, a dairy farmer who had given up due to low milk prices. Triodos (an ethical bank) lent Sedlescombe the money to convert it to what has become known as The Millennium Vineyard. The site was drained and planted with 2,000 Regent vines from 1999, with another 4,000 and then 1,300 Regent (the last in 2005) added as Roy Cook told me he ‘really liked this grape.’ Weeds were suppressed using plastic sheeting as mulch.
Biodynamic certification: 2010 Full Demeter certification from the 2010 vintage. | 2020 Still certified Biodynamic.
Hawkhurst Road, Cripps Corner, Robertsbridge
East Sussex TN32 5SA, England
Tel+44 (0)1580.830715 | www.englishorganicwine.co.uk
Lucy Shaw., ‘Going back to nature’, Drinks Business 103 (Feb 2011) p.64-65
Monty Waldin, Visit to Sedlescombe to see Roy Cook at 11.30am on 8th January 1999, and again on 14th December 2000.