ritish wines, once the butt of jokes, are now attracting international acclaim, so it’s the perfect time to discover them on home turf.
France and California may be better associated with vineyard tourism but the UK has its own scene in some of the country’s most beautiful locations.
South east England, with its chalky soils and mild temperatures, has the highest concentration of vineyards, but you’ll find them as far flung as Yorkshire and Wales. Many are open for tours and tastings, while some have even more unique experiences to tempt visitors.
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Bluebell Vineyard Estates, East Sussex
There’s a chance to join the harvest at Bluebell Vineyard this October; get hands-on and help pick the estate’s grapes before a well-earned lunch.
Add a different type of vintage to your visit by riding the steam trains at nearby Bluebell Railway. Great British Wine Tours (which has a handy pick up at Brighton Station) offers this fun combination as a package. The vineyard is also close to Sheffield Park and Garden, a National Trust site famed for its autumn colours.
Complement a vineyard tour with a ride on the Bluebell Railway(David Cable)
Cosy 16th-century The Cat Inn, which boasts a Michelin Bib Gourmand for its food, is at West Hoathly. Doubles from £130.
Llanerch Vineyard, Hensol, Vale of Glamorgan
Learn to create new dishes at this Welsh vineyard’s farmhouse cookery school, where workshops are led by TV chef Angela Gray. Upcoming themes include Moroccan, vegetarian, slow cooking and make-and-freeze festive dishes. The site has its own restaurant too, if you’d rather someone else did the honours. Vineyard tours run until the end of October.
Llanerch Vineyard has its own cookery school(Llanerch Vineyard)
Llanerch’s hotel has 37 rooms, some dog-friendly. The Wine Escape, with an overnight stay, tour, tasting and dinner for two, costs from £200, November to February.
Chapel Down, Tenterden, Kent
Keep an eagle eye out for the return of Fizz and Falconry at Kent’s Chapel Down, when visitors get to lure the birds of prey that protect the grapes from nibbling animals. Standard guided tours are already back so you can discover more about the wine served at William and Kate’s wedding before enjoying it with lunch in the Michelin Bib Gourmand restaurant. Cocktail-making masterclasses are among other experiences to look forward to in future months.
Chapel Down has Fizz and Falconry packages(Chapel Down Tenterden Vineyard)
Sissinghurst Castle Farmhouse sits within a National Trust site 20 minutes away. Doubles, from £145, include afternoon tea and breakfast. Chapel Down packages, adding a private tour and lunch for two, from £480.
Denbies Wine Estate, Dorking, Surrey
At the foot of Box Hill sits this 627-acre vineyard, which you can explore from aboard the estate’s own 4×4-pulled sightseeing train. A 50-minute tour takes visitors to the most scenic viewpoints while a recorded commentary explains more about the vine-to-wine process. The transport turns into a festive-themed Santa Express from late November. There are two restaurants on site, with afternoon teas and roasts among the options.
Denbies offers tours in its sightseeing train (Helen Dixon)
Denbies has its own smart carbon neutral Vineyard Hotel. Doubles from £145.
Furleigh Estate, Salway Ash, Bridport, Dorset
Grab your poles for an expert-guided Nordic walking session among the vines of Dorset’s Furleigh Estate before rewarding yourself for your exertions with a glass of fizz in the tasting room. The walks are among regular events at the vineyard in October and November. In the warmer months, look out for painting sessions among the grapes with a graduate from the Glasgow School of Art.
Rathfinny Estate, Alfriston, East Sussex
Once you’ve feasted on the South Downs and sea views from this lofty vineyard, get started on the creative food. Head chef Chris Bailey (a Michelin-star holder at his former venue) has been producing picnics among the vines and, before the full reopening of the Tasting Room restaurant, is planning a harvest experience with game and fish barbecued over dried vine leaves. Look out too for the stargazing sessions often teamed with Rathfinny’s wine tastings.
Wine: Line ’em up
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1/3Wine: Line ’em up
Wine: Line ’em up
J&L Charlemagne Sparkling XO; Casa Silva Chardonnay-Semillon Colchagua Valley 2011; Pecorino Colline Pescaresi 2011; Vionta Albariño Rias Baixas 2011/12
Wine: Line ’em up
Yealands Estate Single Block S1 Sauvignon Blanc 2011; Cepa Alegro Rioja Reserva 2006; Dona Dominga Syrah El Rabaño Colchagua Valley 2011; Leval Pinot Noir 2010
Wine: Line ’em up
Marques de Borba Alentejo Tinto 2011; Trapiche Broquel Bonarda 2011; Château Sainte-Eulalie Minervois La Liviniere 2009; Grant Burge Barossa 10-year-old Tawny
The vineyard’s smart B&B in converted Flint Barns has rooms sleeping up to five. Doubles from £87. A special harvest package will include dinner, a tasting tour and a chance to help with grape picking.
Ryedale Vineyards, Westow, North Yorkshire
A converted shire horse stable at the most northerly commercial vineyard in Britain is a cosy place for a private gathering (within the latest allowed numbers) and hosted wine tasting. Alternatively, hire out the marquee and horsebox bar in the meadow beside the vines. You can also tour the vineyard and picnic while the weather holds and the site is just outside Yorkshire’s ‘food capital’ Malton.
Hambledon Vineyard, Waterlooville, Hampshire
Wine and cheese is a classic combination but this vineyard near Portsmouth rings the changes with chocolate and wine pairing sessions. Festive events are in the works, including Christmas wreath making and a picnic tea aboard the estate’s double-decker bus. Special occasion? Your party can also bottle your own sparkling wine. Hambledon is England’s oldest commercial vineyard and the cricket stumps on its logo commemorate the village’s role in the development of the sport.
Hambledon Vineyard does chocolate and wine pairings(Hambledon Vineyard)
Manning Heath Vineyard, Horsham, West Sussex
Show off at your next party by opening your sparkling wine with a blade. The art of sabrage, traditionally done with a sword, is taught at Mannings Heath vineyard and sister site Leonardslee Lakes & Gardens. There’s further fun to be had by taking a self-drive tour of the vineyard by golf buggy. At Leonardslee’s glorious gardens, you can pair your sabrage demo and wine tasting with afternoon tea in the Michelin-starred restaurant.
Manning Heath Vineyard teaches the art of sabrage(Manning Heath Vineyard)
A new state-of-the-art spa is among the temptations at nearby country house hotel South Lodge. Doubles from £285. Mannings itself has a four-bed cottage to hire.
Rosemary Vineyard, Ryde, Isle of Wight
Pull up your own campervan or caravan on the edge of the vines and set yourself up for a tranquil stay at this Isle of Wight estate. The pitches are raised to maximise views, which can also be enjoyed from the Vineleaf Café. When you fancy exploring, you can walk or drive to nearby beaches.
There are eight caravan and campervan pitches at Rosemary Vineyard Touring Park from £12 a night or £70 a week. All have electric hook ups and access to shower and toilet facilities.