Celebration At Home: An Organic English Wine Tasting 2012
Friday 14th December 2012
£12 in advance
42-46 Bethel Street
Norwich NR2 1NR
Photo courtesy of Oast House Archive
The further north you go, the harder it is to grow grapes. Though the old cliché that grapes like to suffer may be true, they would rather fry than freeze. Whereas wine flows lake-lake in the Languedoc, it tends to trickle in Sussex. But whilst UK yields may be low, the quality is increasingly high.
Choosing to grow grapes in our damp climate is a bold move, but plenty of people are doing so. In 2011, there were 420 UK vineyards with 1200 hectares of cultivated vines, which produced over 3 million bottles of wine. Whilst 2010 produced a million more, it is the 2011 harvest that has been exciting English winemakers and critics.
Where commodities are scarce, prices are high, and this is one of the bugbears of English wine production. Wine will always be cheaper where grapes are easier to grow, say in La Mancha, or the Cape of Good Hope. In addition to erratic yields, English wine producers have to cope with damp and mildew, high taxation and duties, and high labour costs. You can always get a cheaper bottle elsewhere.
And yet… you can’t get an English wine from Spain. Or South Africa. Or anywhere else for that matter. England has its own climate, its own soils, and its own styles of wine. Our lack of sun means we will never be a stronghold for full-bodied reds, but all manner of crisp, refreshing and aromatic wines hail from these shores, and you can taste six of them at the Greenhouse on Friday 14th December.
The Greenhouse is the place for organic and vegan wine in Norwich, and though there are only five organic producers in this country, we have permanent stocks of the two most eminent – Sedlescombe and Davenport Vineyards. It takes real commitment to grow grapes organically in this country. Where there’s damp, there are fungal issues, and the conventional agro-chemical response would be liberal use of fungicidal sprays. Instead, organic producers have to ensure that leaf growth doesn’t cover the grapes and invite damp, and this often means hours of painstaking labour, plucking leaves from vines to ensure aeration. This noble extra effort keeps residual pesticides from entering the water table (and your wine glass), and safeguards the future fertility of the soil.
Speaking of soils… the soil type of Sussex is very similar to that of Champagne, and in recent years English sparkling wines have twice beaten the most prestigious of Champagne houses to international awards at blind tastings. We will kick-start our tasting with Will Davenport’s Limney Blanc de Blancs, which has been decorated at both the Decanter and UKVA wine awards. And then on to the Limney Dry White, an old favourite, and a wine that can’t go anywhere without winning awards. The 2011 vintage is particularly pleasing, a complex but coherent combination of the floral and the fruity, with a strong mineral backbone. We will also feature Will’s inaugural red, his light and crisp 2010 Pinot Noir.
Sedlescombe are the UK’s only biodynamic vineyard, and the title of their First Release white appertains to their 2010 recent conversion. Successive vintages have been decorated by the UK Vineyards Association. Though separated by short geographical distances, Sedlescombe wines have a very different character to Davenport. They are less dry, more fruity and opulent. The First Release has cut grass aromas, and zingy lemongrass and elderflower flavours, whilst the 2011 Solaris is a medium dry special vintage wine. Made from late-ripening grapes, it contains the highest level of natural alcohol (13%) ever found in an English wine, due mainly to the warm and sunny weather last September and October. And for those of you longing for a little warming red, Sedlescombe’s Regent is one of the most full-bodied to be produced on these shores.
You can book a place at The Greenhouse by paying in advance in the café, and discover the quality and diversity of English organic wine for yourself.
The evening’s wines in full:
1) Limney Blanc de Blancs, Davenport Vineyards 2006
(11.5%. Grape variety: Reichensteiner. Rrp: £18.95)
2) Limney Dry White, Davenport Vineyards 2011
(11.5%. Grape varieties: Ortega / Faber / Siegerebbe / Bacchus / Huxelrebe. £11.75)
3) First Release, Sedlescombe 2011
(11%. Grape varieties: Bacchus / Reichensteiner / Johanniter. £14.95
4) Solaris, Sedlescombe 2011
(13%. £10.95 for 37.5cl bottle)
5) Diamond Fields Pinot Noir, Davenport Vineyards
(2010. 11.5%. £14.50)
6) Regent, Sedlescombe
‘The taste of a good wine is remembered long after the price is forgotten’ Hubrecht Duijker
Feedback from our previous wine tasting:
‘Very enjoyable event!’
‘A Fantastic, laid-back, informative night. Thanks!’