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The first biodynamic vineyard in the UK

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Sedlescombe vineyard in East Sussex was the first vineyard in the UK to be certified organic in 1979, but has recently released the first biodynamic wine in the UK.

In December 2010, Sedlescombe launched the first British biodynamic wine, called %u201CFirst release%u201D, consisting of a mixture of dry white from Bacchus, Rivaner and Solaris. The label has a picture of the moon in a pointy hat and the tasting note indicates %u201Ctropical and spicy flavours of gooseberry, grapefruit and lemon grass%u201D.

Roy Cook is passionate oenologist wine-making under the most natural methods possible: %u201CI see biodynamics as an attempt to work as closely as possible in harmony with nature and the natural rhythms%u201D, says. %u201CConventional agriculture seeks only to enforce and dominate, with scant regard for soil health, wildlife habitat and groundwater. It is a minimum requirement for each generation to leave to future generations a natural world in, at least, as good condition as it was when they inherited it%u201D.

In 1974 Cook inherited 10 acres of land in a south facing slope near Sedlescombe. He spent five years living a simple life of self-sufficiency, growing and selling organic vegetables and in 1979 he planted 2,000 vines throughout 1.5 hectares.

%u201CI realized it was possible to grow grapes successfully without the use of chemical fertilizers and herbicides. At that time there wasn't overproduction of many crops and they were throwing all these toxic chemicals in the environment to produce large quantities of food, which in many cases remained unsold%u201D.

Sedlescombe Organic Vineyard now consists of 3 vineyards across 23 acres, including the vineyard at Bodiam Castle. Cook applies biodynamic principles in all his organic vineyards, and in addition to wines with organic fruit, juices, ciders and spirits, the farm produces about 25,000 bottles of wine per year.

Cook uses the farming methods outlined in a book by Dr. Julius Nessler in 1885, who advocates a radical change in the processing techniques of conventional wine, proposing to add de-stemmed and crushed grapes to the mix during fermentation to maximize body and bouquet. All the grapes at Sedlescombe are harvested by hand, and the cellar uses only half the level of sulphites in comparison with non-organic wines.

In an attempt to avoid synthetic fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides, Cook uses green fertilizers to enrich the soil and improve wildlife habitats of bees, butterflies and birds, as well as quartz silica extracts designed to promote macro-biological activity in the soil, enhance fertility and improve light absorption and photosynthesis through the plant leaves.

In an attempt to play a greater role in the biodynamic wine development community, Cook has applied for membership in %u201CReturn to Terroir%u201D a group gathered by group biodynamic wine pioneer Nicolas Joly, from the Château de la Roche aux Moines in Savennières, in order to reaffirm the individuality and difference of biodynamic wines. Oenologists can only become a member after completing two years as a certified biodynamic vineyard. Meanwhile, Cook works closely with consultants from the Biodynamic Association, and has developed links with other cellars, certified by Demeter in Europe, such as Peter Jakob Kühn Weingut in the Rheingau, Germany.

 

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* Image: Kiran SRK (Flickr)

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