Yesterday’s visit to Sedlescombe Organic Vineyard must have been well viewed by whoever is in charge of the weather, as we had a day of uninterrupted glorious November sun; a little chilly, sure, but as clement as we could have hoped for. I know that Oscar Wilde has said that “Conversation about the weather is the last resort of the unimaginative”, but it is important if you compare the appeal of a rain-soaked tramp through a sodden English vineyard (which had been my experience up till then) to the pleasant autumn glow of “the awesome countryside of the Sussex High Weald”, (to quote Bill Green of Slow Food, my fellow organizer) that we got yesterday.
Our hosts Irma and Susan were welcoming as anything, and the tour and tasting were well appreciated. We even managed to fill the coach exactly (not an easy task, with people joining and cancelling right up to the evening before), which made it as cost-effective as possible, and went back with the coach clinking occasionally from the purchases of various member of the group.
Not everything was perfect, though. Our coach driver had had his mobile stolen the evening before (by someone in a party of rugby players he was chauffeuring, of all people; shame on you)! Still, we got there using alternate navigation (my phone), with the customary detour down a wrong turning, which, I feel, adds spice to all successful vineyard visits!
The tour around this tiny artisanal organic, and in part, biodynamic vineyard was charming, and instructive, but it was the tasting which surprised. I know several of the wines well, and have, on past tastings, found them bright and alive, full of vibrant, lively fruit, balanced by moreish ripe English acidity. Yesterday the wines tasted OK, even good. Nothing wrong, sure, they all had a harmonious, and pleasant expression, but I found them a little flat, and muted. Even the Sedlescombe First Release, their inaugural biodynamic wine, seemed to lack the clarity of citrus fruit compote I found on previous Wine Tastings. This was the wine that introduced me to the estate. The first time I showed it at a biodynamic wine seminar I was presenting last year, it blew everyone away with is exuberant quality; yesterday it was appreciated.
Perhaps here is the answer: I am no die-hard zealot of biodynamic viticulture above all others, nor, infectious though it is, do I share Doug Wregg’s or Isabelle Legeron’s unequivocal enthusiasm for ‘Natural wines’, but I am certainly very appreciative of natural ways of making wine like biodynamic, and organic, and I do have a little booklet called “When wine tastes best. A biodynamic calendar for wine drinkers” in my office. Consulting this today, I find that yesterday was a root day, all day. Root and leaf are the days in the biodynamic calendar on which wines are supposed to taste flatter, while flower and fruit days invigorate aromas and flavours.
So there it is: The biodynamic calendar really is the new wine drinker’s bible! As a scientist
by education, I will say, though, that I am impressed with this empirical endorsement of the calendar. Ideally I would have arranged the visit on a fruit or flower day; practicalities like Slow Food’s calendar also have to be taken into account, though, and yesterday was the day decided on. At least the 13th didn’t fall on a Friday; who knows, that might have caused other problems.
I still consider Sedlescombe Vineyard’s wines to be some of the best around, and we had a fantastic trip and superbly hosted tour of an unique English vineyard. We learned about organic and biodynamic viticulture, and more than we were expecting about biodynamic wine tasting. The calendar tells me Advent Sunday, the 27th November is an especially good fruit day. Let’s go to Sedlescombe again then and see the difference!