Roy Cook and his wife Irma, from Germany, inherited 10 acres of land in Sedlescombe in 1974, and they decided to earn a small income from organic vegetable farming, as self-suffience was all the rage then . However, they soon latched on to the vine revival spreading across Southern England and realised their land had all the right conditions for viticulture.
The Sedlescombe Vineyard has won numerous awards for their wines whicch are all from hand picked fruit, grown and made under organic standards. In 1979 Roy and Irma started with 2,000 vines across one and a half acres. Now they own three vineyards spread over 12 acres and rent another two, totalling 11 acres.
Sedlecombe Organic Vineyards produce an average of between 20,000 and 25,000 bottles a year, based on a method they unearthed in a German Gothic textbook written by Dr Julius Nessler in 1885. He advocated a radical departure from conventional wine-making wisdom. Roy and Irma kept their knowledge a secret for many years, but now their wines have won many awards, they’re happy to share it.
Roy and Irma are offering hobby winemakers a piece of their pioneering vineyard at Cripps Corner, Robertsbridge, by becoming a member of the Rentavine wine club at England’s oldest organic vineyard. Hobbyists can participate in growing organic grapes, making English wine and enjoy broadening their knowledge of this fascinating and pleasurable subject. All the fun without the risk.
Roy & Irma Cook, in association with vineyard manager Inga Keck, are since 2010 applying the principles of Biodynamic agriculture as laid down by Rudolf Steiner in 1924, on all 22 acres of their organic vineyards.
First Release (Biodynamic & Organic)
Bronze Medal – UK Vineyard’s Association ‘Wine of the Year’ competition 2011. First Biodynamic English wine, crafted from hand-picked Bacchus, Solaris and Rivaner grapes. Concentrated fresh aroma, with tropical, zesty flavours of gooseberry, grapefruit and lemon grass. Drink now, within 5 years – or auction in 50 years!
On becoming Bio-dynamic, Sedlescombe Organic Vineyard will apply to join the prestigious world-wide groupings of Bio-dynamic Vineyards as a member of “Return to Terroir”. This group, founded by Nicolas Joly, seeks to re-assert the individuality and difference of wines produced in different regions and in different localities and to set itself apart from the faceless blandness and conformity of the products of international wine conglomerates.
“Our vineyards, organic for 30 years, are now teeming with wild-life”, says Roy. “Insects are attracted to the flowering green manure cover crops grown to improve soil fertility, and in turn they attract birds with resident pheasants enjoying the cover these crops provide”. Since the biodynamic conversion the organic vineyards are also in tune with the earth’s rhythms. The aptly named ‘First Release’ is a dry white whose label features the moon – a nod to the incorporation of lunar and cosmic rhythms in their ‘new age’ farming methods.
This self-built house in the vineyard was built by Constructive Individuals in three weeks time, using Walter Segal’s system of post and beam construction.
In 1986 Roy and Irma Cook built the bungalow to replace the old caravan on the land they inherited in 1974, but these plans were turned down by Rother District Council, and the “vineyard couple” faced eviction.
They had to show within two years that their business was viable. Well, we now know that it is!