When you think of wine, you probably think of something South African, Australian or French. But that is far from the case, for little did you know that England produces some of the loveliest wines to taste. But a trip to a vineyard doesn’t mean a simple booze fest. Whilst I’m sure there will be a glass (or two) involved, it is so much more than that. A trip to a vineyard is a chance to walk around a beautiful area, to enjoy the nature and views of a gorgeous vineyard whilst getting some physical activity. It is a chance to possibly learn a bit more about the history and industry of an area, as this major produce may impact it dramatically. You’ll not only drink wine, but truly taste it, understand the different flavours and influences, perhaps even what to pair which wine with - a true lesson! So read on to discover the top 5 English vineyards to visit, and join us on this journey through wine!
#1 Rathfinny Estate, Sussex
Of the Sussex vineyards, Rathfinny Estate is one of the newest options for your Sunday stroll. This beautiful countryside getaway is a mere hour drive from London, making it the ideal escape from the city. It was founded in 2010, and is situated in the South Down. The vineyard is situated on a slope, consisting of the same chalk soils that mark the Champagne region, making it perfect for producing top quality “Sussex Sparkling”. You can take your own self guided trek along the Rathfinny Trail or take a guided tour - one of the best Sussex vineyard tours! You’ll be walking along the vines and witnessing the beautiful view, as well as being surprised by all the butterflies - the result of the wildflowers planted between the vines. A tour includes a guided tasting of the wines - oaky or light? Fruity or full? And this can be nicely rounded off with a lunch or dinner at The Tasting Room restaurant, or even an overnight stay at the quaint Flint Barns which is housed among the vines with picturesque views of the countryside.
#2 Camel Valley, Cornwall
A more obvious choice, Camel Valley was founded by Bob and Annie Lindo when they planted vines over 30 years ago and then produced the first wines in 1989. It is renowned for its wide selection of wines, including the classic Cornwall Brut, a sparkling Rose Brut and a deliciously crisp Bacchus Dry. Nestled into the gorgeous Cornish countryside, this vineyard is a full day experience. You can follow the Camel Trail all the way through the farm to the sandy beaches of Padstow. We recommend booking the Grand Tour for the full experience, as the winemaker will bring you through the vineyard year and winery process, from flowering to harvest to bottling. And of course this is followed by a tasting of five wines - including the famed Cornwall Brut. You can make this into a real holiday and romantic getaway by booking one of the cottages overlooking the vineyards and nearby lake, which is promised to give the south of France a run for its money!
#3 Simpson’s Wine Estate, Kent
If you’re a fan of French wine, or just rosé, then this is the vineyard for you. Following 16 years of producing rosé in Languedoc, France, Charles and Ruth Simpson chose to relocate to Kent and use this expertise for English winemaking. Their vineyard is situated in Kent’s North Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, and is one of the most beautiful vineyards to visit. They proudly create one of the country’s top quality still wines, the acclaimed Roman Road Chardonnay and will be releasing their first sparkling rosé soon. Head to Simpson’s Wine Estate for a ‘Sunset Session’ tour that begins with a stroll around the famed Roman Road vineyard. This is followed by a tasting and a winery visit, and a trip down the helter skelter! Your ticket also includes a platter of locally sourced cheese and charcuteries, for we wouldn’t want all the wine to go to your head! Or if you don’t mind that, you’ll appreciate the wine tasting samples you can leave with…
#4 Castlewood Vineyards, Devon
Lazing across the hills, beneath the ancient for of Musbury Castle, lies Castlewood Vineyards. It specializes in fizz from the renowned champagne blend of Pinot Noir,Chardonnay and Pinot Meunier. These are also uniquely blended with a few of the lesser known varieties that appear in English soils: Reichensteiner, Madeleine Angevine and Seyval Blanc. They work alongside the nearby Lyme Bay Winery, and thrive for natural blends with minimal intervention. Head over for a lovely vineyard tour and picnic lunch in this beautiful area. You can also enjoy the Wine & Dine experience, and follow the vineyard tour with a two-course lunch in Hugh’s famous farmhouse! If you wish to make a weekend away out of this, book a traditional stone cottage or a room at Old Park Hall, a quintessential country B&B.
#5 Breaky Bottom Winery, Sussex
An isolated farmstead in a secluded valley deep in the South Downs, this is one of the more hidden Sussex vineyards. Breaky Bottom Winery has six acres of vines, and is a small scale family-run business. Their top quality wines have gained a reputation for excellence and focus on attention to detail. Some of their best produce include a high quality Sparkling Brut and Seyval Blanc. Tour the vineyard, and enjoy the beautiful grassy lands. Keep an eye out for the 40 ewes that graze the surrounding steep banks, so they don’t sneak up and give you a shock! The tours are simple, but priced accordingly, and will be a lovely activity on a sunny day whilst visiting the surrounding area.It is well combined with a trip to other Sussex vineyards, and stay in the surrounding or find somewhere to camp. Why not rent a motorhome and make a road trip out of it? The best of the Sussex vineyard tours!
Hopefully our selection of the top 5 English vineyards to visit will inspire you to go out there and visit one! It is never too late or too early to learn more about wine. So why not go and get a nice day of walking and pick up some fun facts and terms to throw out at your next dinner party? Let your guests know just how the full bodied wine fits the appetizer you’ve prepared!