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Visiting a vineyard isn’t just something to do when you fly off on a foreign holiday. A growing number of English winemakers are welcoming visitors through their gates – and some of them can be reached on a day-trip from London. Susanna Forbes reports
Kent’s most upmarket vinous destination, Chapel Down has launched a range of tailored visits. As well as the standard tour, extras might include
The restaurant, run by chef Richard Phillips, continues to win fans with its mix of stylish decor, welcoming staff and perfectly executed seasonal dishes. The spacious bar offers light meals, tea and coffee. Cookery classes with Phillips are also on offer. Join the winery’s Wine Society to be kept in touch with events.
Don’t miss: Chapel Down Brut Rosé NV.
Open: All year.
Small Hythe, Tenterden,TN30 7NG; 01580 766111; www.englishwinesgroup.com
Famous for its cider and apple juice, Biddenden is also Kent’s oldest commercial winery. Visitors can explore the 22 acres of vines before sampling the produce, join the free guided tour on the third Saturday of the month (March-October) or take part in one of the many guided tours that include other nearby attractions, such as Pashley Manor Gardens. There is a well-stocked shop alongside the café and tasting room.
Don’t miss: Biddenden Ortega 2007 white.
Open: All year (closed Sundays during January and February).
Gribble Bridge Lane, Biddenden, Tenterden, TN27 8DF; 01580 291726; www.biddendenvineyards.com
Nestled in the hills of rural Sussex, Bookers vineyard is a family-run enterprise helmed by one of the UK’s leading winemakers, Samantha Linter. Tours range from a straightforward visit-plus-tasting to the Ultimate Wine Experience for those with a deeper interest in English wine. Check the website for dates and availability.
Don’t miss: Barts Bubbly Rosé Sparkling NV.
Open: All year.
Foxhole Lane, Bolney, Haywards Heath, RH17 5NB; 01444 881575; www.bookersvineyard.co.uk
Next time you’re heading for Henley or whizzing by Windsor, consider dropping in on the Cellar Shop at the historic Stanlake Park estate in Twyford. What was once a Victorian greenhouse is now a warm, inviting tasting room sitting next to a charming walled garden with a vineyard begun in the late 1970s. Stanlake Park produces over a dozen wines, including a suitably named crisp white, Regatta, the stylish Kings Fumé (served in The Ritz and The Dorchester), a Pinot Blush rosé, and a quartet of lively sparklers. Visitors can wander around the walled vineyard and enjoy a glass of wine outside in the summer with nibbles from the shop.
Don’t miss: Stanlake Park Kings Fumé 2006 white.
Open: All year.
Twyford, RG10 0BN; 0118 934 0176; www.stanlakepark.com
The arrival of Atul Kochhar’s restaurant Vatika at Wickham Vineyards, midway between Southampton and Portsmouth, makes it a delightful destination for an out-of-town jaunt. Grab a terrace table and enjoy chef Jitin Joshi’s well-presented, locally inspired menu. Your tasting adventure begins the moment the homemade bread arrives with a quartet of differently spiced salts. The wine list contains pairing suggestions for each intricately spiced dish. Booking is essential (01329 830405).
Build up your appetite with a self-guided wander around the vines, or book in advance for an in-depth evening or weekend tour with the winemaker. There’s also a 7.5-acre nature reserve rich in birdlife and deer, plus an active WineShare club (www.wineshare.co.uk) which runs numerous convivial events for its members. For those wanting to make a weekend of it, both the Marriott and Macdonald groups have hotels and country clubs nearby.
Don’t miss: Wickham Celebration Rosé 2007.
Open: All year.
Botley Road, Shedfield, Southampton, SO32 2HL; 01329 834042; www.wickhamvineyard.com
Hundreds of events draw over 350,000 visitors a year to Denbies, England’s largest winery, which is set in the rolling Surrey hills, but just minutes from Dorking town centre. Casual visitors can choose between an indoor and outdoor tour and tasting; highlights include the 360-degree surround vision film and the outdoor vineyard ‘train’. While the Conservatory restaurant offers light lunches and café-style fare, a more intimate experience awaits at the Gallery Restaurant with its fine views over the estate. New for 2009 at the Gallery are deluxe seasonal tasting-menu evenings and Early Rise Morning Vineyard tours.
Regular events include Wine & Cheese Making days and Harvest Suppers in October. The harvest Vine & Dine Experience, comprising breakfast, grape picking, a chance to follow your grapes into the winery, plus – of course – lunch, is particularly popular. If you’d like to stay, the on-site Farmhouse offers comfortable B&B.
Don’t miss: Denbies Greenfields Cuvée 2004 sparkling.
Open: All year.
Dorking, RH5 6AA; 01306 876616; www.denbieswineestate.com
To see how green a winery can really be, visit Carter’s Vineyards near Colchester. Before sampling the wines, you can look out for resident kingfishers as you ramble through the 40 acres of lakes, wildflower meadows, woodlands and vines. Guided tours are available for groups of 10 or more, with volunteers welcome at harvest-time – a morning’s work followed by lunch with wine.
Self-sufficient in energy and water, Carter’s uses majestic Suffolk Punch heavy horses at harvest. Winners of an Environmental Awareness Award, it is perhaps unsurprising that the winery is allied to The Anchor in nearby Nayland (www.anchornayland.co.uk), winner of a Greenest Pub in Suffolk award. With the talented Carl Shillingford (ex-The Waterside Inn at Bray) running the kitchen, The Anchor has its own 100-acre Heritage Farm, complete with Suffolk Punches and smokehouse.
Don’t miss: Carter’s King Coel 2006 red.
Open: Easter to October.
Green Lane, Boxted, Colchester, CO4 5TS; 01206 271136; www.cartersvineyards.co.uk
Families are well catered for at Shawsgate, with a children’s play area alongside picnic tables. Located near the market town of Framlingham, this friendly winery offers a range of tours: your own DIY trek, an evening tour every Wednesday, or half-day Experience Tours that include lunch and a bottle per couple to take away. There’s a well-stocked café or visitors can bring a picnic.
Don’t miss: Shawsgate Pandora 2004 white.
Open: March-September: Mon-Sun. October-February: Fri-Sat.
Badingham Road, Framlingham, IP13 9HZ; 01728 724060; www.shawsgate.co.uk
With a weekly farmers’ market, a garden of national significance, an award-winning restaurant, not to mention an Elizabethan manor house, Wyken Hall is quite a set-up. Owned by former Tory minister Sir Kenneth Carlisle and his charismatic former Country Life columnist wife, Mississippi-born Carla, the estate has been energetically conserved and developed, offering much both for gourmets and garden lovers.
The Leaping Hare restaurant, owner of a Michelin ‘Bib Gourmand’, serves sophisticated seasonal fare (slow-roasted Gressingham duck with pak choy and lentils), plus a good value Vintner’s Menu, while the café offers a bistro-style menu, again with local flourishes (salmon smoked over Wyken vine prunings).
The latest additions to the Wyken drinks family include a fast-disappearing rosé, a lively bubbly, Wyken Moonshine, plus Good Dog Ale, a low-fizz beer designed to go with food.
Don’t miss: Wyken Moonshine NV.
Open: Restaurant, café, shop and vineyard: all year. Gardens: April-September, Sun-Fri 2-6pm.
Wyken Vineyards, Stanton, Bury St Edmunds, IP31 2DW; 01359 250287; www.wykenvineyards.co.uk
Bob and Annie Lindo’s multi-garlanded 20-year-old operation has set the standard for English sparkling wine: Camel Valley is served to royalty and heads of state and is stocked by Fortnum & Mason. The still wine is equally as good. With engaging son Sam now on board, this is an English winery with the personal touch.
Situated a few miles from Bodmin and within striding distance of the popular Camel Valley hiking and biking trail, the winery attracts 20,000 visitors a year. During the summer, opt for either the weekday 2.30pm tour or book a place on the increasingly popular Grand Tour on Wednesday at 5.30pm, which includes a tutored tasting with the winemaker. With two well-equipped, cosy self-catering cottages overlooking the vineyards, the Lindos make it all such fun that if you happen to be staying at harvest-time, you might just find yourself helping out.
Don’t miss: Camel Valley White Pinot Noir 2005 sparkling.
Open: April-September, closed on Sundays except on Bank Holiday weekends.
Nanstallon, Bodmin, PL30 5LG; 01208 77959; www.camelvalley.com
For that real getting-away-from-it-all feeling, why not wake up among the vines at the Three Choirs Vineyard, near Gloucester? Opt either for one of the eight well-appointed rooms with terrace overlooking the vineyards, or choose one of the Scandinavian-style cabins in the middle of the vines and get breakfast delivered in a hamper by the winery’s golf buggy. With an enviable microclimate, panoramic views and ever-smiling staff, the Three Choirs estate has a truly relaxing vibe. Wander through the vines at leisure, spotting wildlife as you go, before treating yourself to lunch at the Vineyard Restaurant, where chef Darren Leonard’s seasonal menu makes the most of the fine local produce. This year he’ll be introducing cream teas on the terrace for residents. The daily afternoon tour finishes with a chance to try five wines.
Don’t miss: Three Choirs Siegerrebe 2006 white.
Open: All year
Newent, Gloucester, GL18 1LS; 01531 890223; www.threechoirs.com
To help you find your way, A Guide to the Wines of England & Wales (£14.99), published by the award-winning Wine Behind the Label team, is an invaluable guide to more than 100 vineyards.
Editorial feature from Square Meal Lifestyle Magazine Summer 2009