English red wine wins international award

Sedlescombe, the vineyard in Sussex, has picked up two major medals at the International Organic Wine Awards which were held recently and boasted contestants from 18 countries. Of the 603 entries, only the two winners from Sedlescombe could call themselves true products of England. The two winners were the Sedlescombe Premier Brut 2010, a vintage sparkling wine and their 2011 Regent, a red wine matured in oak casks which is thought to be the first English red to win international acclaim. Both the wines won silver awards in their class.

Under the direction of Martin Darting, a sensory expert, the 26 strong jury at the fourth International Organic Wine Awards evaluated and then documented the wines, during the 3 days of tasting which took place from the 6th-8th June, using the PAR system. All results of the competition can be found on International Wine Awards.

Scoring 86 points Sedlescombe’s Regent red ranked higher in its class than 53 other red wines from regions and countries such as Italy (75 – 83), Greece (83), Barossa Valley (85), Portugal (84), Sicily (84), Crete (84), Cotes du Duras (78 – 84), Cotes du Rhone (82), Languedoc (76), and Rioja (82).

Proprietor and wine maker Roy Cook said: “It’s well known that English whites and sparkling wines can win awards internationally, but what this result shows is, in a good year, an English red wine can also out perform some other reds even from the big name wine regions of the world.”

The Sedlescombe 2011 vintage Regent is an oak matured red wine made from the high quality Regent variety grapes gathered in the outstanding harvest of that year from the Sedlescombe’s Millennium vineyard. The exceptionally high natural sugar levels achieved in 2011 provided an alcohol level of 11.74%, making *chapitalization (*the standard practice of adding sugar to grape juice in northern climatic zones), unnecessary. Seven months maturation in French barrique oak barrels has produced a smoky, full bodied wine of notable complexity. (full data & tasting notes available)

The Sedlescombe 2010 vintage Premier Brut with 84 points scored higher than some other sparkling wines from Germany, Italy, and Spain. Premier Brut is a sparkling white wine made using the Traditional (champagne) Method from the grape varieties Seyval Blanc and Johanniter grown at the vineyards managed by proprietors Irma and Roy Cook. A minimum of 18 months ‘on the lees’ is credited in its tasting notes as adding the sought after “toasty flavour” to the wine’s “tangy tropical fruit palate”. (full data & tasting notes available)

These 2 Silver Medal winning wines are also the first examples of English Sparkling wine and English Red wine to be produced according to the standards of the Biodynamic Agricultural Association (BDA), sometimes referred to as ‘gold standard’ organic.

Roy Cook said “Both wines were also among the medals in the UK Vineyards Association (UKVA) Wine of the Year competition held 16th June – representing great recognition for our endeavours over thirty years! The Premier Brut gaining ‘Silver’ and the Regent a ‘Highly Commended’.”

Somewhat unusually, but in keeping with the Cook’s eco-philosophy of ‘minimal packaging’ neither bottle has a capsule covering the cork. Instead, the sparkling wine’s visible wire-hood proudly displays the logo associated with the Sedlescombe brand, and the red has a wax covering on the natural cork closure. The Cooks opting for cork rather than screw-top closures as a way of demonstrating support for the unique Portuguese cork forest eco-system and its producers.

Founded in 1979 by Roy and Irma Cook, with Soil Association certification gained in 1982, Sedlescombe Vineyard is England’s oldest and largest organic wine producer. In 2010 Sedlescombe moved to “premium organic” status by becoming the first vineyard in the UK to release a biodynamic English wine, their dry white ‘First Release’.

Agricultural Note: Biodynamics pre-dates organic farming by half a century and is based on a series of lectures given by Rudolf Steiner in the 1920’s. This system of agriculture shuns chemical inputs in the same way that other organic farmers do. In addition it incorporates lunar and cosmic rhythms into the timing of the application of special biodynamic preparations designed to benefit both soil and plants. In France some prestigious estates such as Chateau Margaux and Domaine de la Romainée-Conti are managed biodynamically as are scores of other less well known wine estates. The system is currently enjoying something of a renaissance around the globe, especially among wine growers, as a number of formerly organic vineyards are upgrading to this ‘gold standard’ organic system.