“Do You Have Anything English?”
An Evening of Organic English Wine Tasting
Friday 24th October
£13 in advance / £15 on the door
42-46 Bethel Street
Norwich NR2 1NR
To make a distinguished wine, you need to match the grape variety and the climate, so that the grapes ripen slowly over a long season. Too near the equator, the grapes ripen too readily, and the resulting wine becomes a structureless jam; too far north, and the grapes will fail to ripen at all, and any resulting wine will be aggressively green and sour.
Making wine in England is a bold move, and truly marginal growing. In a good year, such as 2011 or 2013, the results can justify the effort. But the potential pitfalls were plain to see in 2012, when early season drought followed by a soaking June meant vineyards had tiny yields, some (such as sparkling specialists Nyetimber) deciding not to pick at all.
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 24th October.
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 vine canopy aeration. This noble extra effort keeps residual pesticides from entering the water table (and your wine glass), and creates local employment, whilst safeguarding the future fertility of the soil.
Speaking of soils… the principal soil in Sussex is of the same kimmeridgian type as 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 Horsmonden Dry White, a wine with the fruity expansiveness you might expect of a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc. We will also sample Davenport’s inaugural rosé, made from the Pinot Noir vines he planted in 2000.
Sedlescombe are the UK’s only biodynamic vineyard, and the title of their First Release white appertains to their conversion in 2010. Successive vintages have been decorated by the UK Vineyards Association. The 2011 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 that 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 your place at our sociable and informal tasting tasting online or in person at The Greenhouse, 42-46 Bethel Street. Light nibbles will be available, but eating beforehand is advised, in order to accurately recall the quality and diversity of English organic wine!
On the menu:
Limney Blanc de Blancs, Davenport Vineyards 2007
(11.5%. Grape variety: Reichensteiner. Shop price £22.95)
Horsmonden Dry White, Davenport Vineyards 2013
(11.5%. Grape varieties: Ortega / Faber / Siegerebbe / Bacchus / Huxelrebe. Shop price £13.95)
First Release, Sedlescombe 2011
(12%. Grape varieties: Reichensteiner / Bacchus /Johanniter. £14.95
Solaris, Sedlescombe 2011
(13%. £11.95 for 37.5cl bottle)
Diamond Fields Pinot Noir Rosé, Davenport Vineyards 2013
(2010. 11.5%. £13.95)
Regent, Sedlescombe 2010
(11%. price TBA)
‘The taste of a good wine is remembered long after the price is forgotten’ Hubrecht Duijker
A Tasting of Organic Wines Fit for the Season
Friday 12th December 2014, 7.30pm
@ The Greenhouse