England’s green and pleasant land is increasingly recognised as a premium wine-producing region, and it now has over 500 vineyards. Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Bacchus are the most popular grape varieties grown in English vineyards, as well as Pinot Meunier and Ortega.
Whilst vineyards are found across England, the milder climate of the south and south east makes these areas particularly suitable for growing vines, especially the counties of Hampshire, Kent, Surrey and Sussex. English Wine Week (18-26 June 2022) shines a spotlight on English wines and vineyards. Raise a glass and peruse our pick of the best:
Gusbourne Vineyard, Kent
Established in 2004 and located in Appledore, just an hour from London in the Garden of England, Gusbourne is the most awarded English Sparkling producer. Its vineyards are blessed with a very special terroir: its Wealden clay-loam soils combined with an exceptionally warm and dry maritime climate enable Gusbourne to be the first to harvest in England, whilst the proximity to the sea provides a distinctive salty tang to the wines. Focusing on just the classic grape varieties of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier, Gusbourne believes that the only way to ensure the quality of its grapes is to grow them all themselves, so the grapes used in its winemaking are sourced solely from Gusbourne vineyards. Gusbourne supplies some of the very finest restaurants in the UK, including at several Pride of Britain Hotels such as Whatley Manor, The Athenaeum and Northcote. Visitors can soak up the essence of Gusbourne on a guided tour with one of its experts, or a pre-packed picnic in its beautiful grounds overlooking its Pinot Noir vines and the lush wetlands of Romney Marsh.
Ryedale Vineyards, Yorkshire
Located at the foot of the Wolds in North Yorkshire, Ryedale Vineyards is one of the United Kingdom’s most northerly vineyards. 16 varieties of grapes including Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier and Bacchus are grown here to produce dry, off dry or predominantly mineral, fruity wines. The 120 plus heritage apple trees around the vineyard are used for cider and pressed by hand, while wild damsons and plums are used in the deliciously fruity Plum Cup.
Informal and informative tours and wine tastings led by one of the two winemakers allow visitors to look around the vineyard and winery and sample a selection of wines and ciders. Tours run from Easter until the end of harvest in late October, and tastings take place in the garden or the farmhouse kitchen.
Coates & Seely, Hampshire
Near Whitchurch in Hampshire, Coates & Seely crafts wines in small batches using traditional techniques. In 2008, two friends – Nicholas Coates and Christian Seely – embarked on a winemaking adventure which was to lead them to creating bubbles that have been served at Kensington Palace. The chalk subsoil under this Hampshire vineyard imparts a mineral flavour also present in French Champagne.
Giffords Hall Vineyard, Suffolk
Located in the picturesque Suffolk village of Hartest, with its thatched and painted houses, Giffords Hall Vineyard was planted in the 1970s on the clay soil of an ancient glacial riverbed. Guided vineyard tours are available throughout summer (some with wine and cheese tastings). Learn about the history of English wine and the varieties and styles of grapes that grown at Giffords Hall.
Tea, coffee, cake and ice creams are available from the Al Fresco Café, or why not purchase a picnic box to enjoy in a quiet spot in the grounds? Well behaved dogs are welcome to join their owners. The pretty villages Lavenham and Long Melford are also close by.
Rathfinny Wine Estate, Sussex
Near Alfriston in the South Downs, Rathfinny Wine Estate inhabits a perfect south facing slope, just three miles from the sea. Its mild climate, chalk soils and aspect make it one of the most perfect places to produce wine in a region that is already producing some of the best, award-winning English sparkling wines.
Owners Mark and Sarah Driver have planted three principal grape varieties – Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Meunier as well as some Pinot Gris. From May to September, Summer Tours & Tastings take place every Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Meet at the Cellar Door for an enjoyable tour of the estate and learn how the winery turns grapes into Sussex wines. There’s also a restaurant with stunning South Downs views.
Camel Valley, Cornwall
The first vines were planted at Camel Valley in 1989 by Bob Lindo and his wife Annie. Today, their son Sam is head winemaker at the Bodmin-based vineyard which offers guided tours, tastings and wine by the bottle or glass
The rolling Cornish countryside is the backdrop to a south-facing valley of vines, conditions ideal for viticulture. The vineyard produced Cornwall’s first Traditional Method sparkling wine, as well as red and white still wines. In spring and summer, guided tours take place daily or simply soak up the views from the tasting terrace.