Did you know that it’s currently English Wine Week?
The campaign, which runs from June 20-28, celebrates the very best in English wine.
To mark the occasion, we’re reprinting the below article from Susie Kearley.
Susie toured some of the country’s finest vineyards for us way back in Special 143. And it looked like fun!
Maybe a few of these should be on your “must visit” list when it’s safe to travel again!
Or maybe just a few bottles would do the trick . . .
Biddenden Vineyard, Kent
Biddenden Vineyard is located on 23 acres of land in a sunny part of Kent. It’s the oldest commercial vineyard in the county and was first established in 1969 for making wines and ciders.
Today, they grow 11 different varieties of grape at Biddenden, and produce white, red and rosé still and sparkling wines.
The grape varieties include Ortega, Huxelrebe, Bacchus, Schönburger and Reichensteiner.
Visitors receive a warm welcome. Plus, there’s a coffee shop and a walking route around the estate so you can explore at your leisure.
There may be occasions when it’s necessary to close the walk for practical reasons. But most of the year you can amble round the grounds before sampling the wines.
The shop has cheeses, chutneys, regional beers and other goodies, so you can leave with an abundance of tasty treats.
If you prefer a guided tour, you can pre-book ahead of your visit. It’s open Monday to Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Sundays and Bank Holidays from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
The vineyard is closed on Sundays in January and February and closes for the Christmas season: December 24 to January 1 inclusive.
Sedlescombe Organic Vineyard, Kent
Sedlescombe Organic Vineyard is the oldest organic vineyard in England, with the first vines planted back in 1979 by owner Roy Cook.
He’s since expanded the vineyard, which today has a visitor trail, woodland walk, vineyard shop and café – and visitors can sample six varieties of wine in a tasting session.
We check out the vats in an adjacent shed and go on a self-guided tour of the vineyards.
In summertime, the vines bloom with juicy red and white grapes. Small plants and broad beans between the vines are mulched to create a nutrient-rich “green manure” which improves the fertility of the organic soil.
The vineyard is on a south-facing slope with 4,000 Regent (red) vines and 500 Solaris (white) vines. The Regent vines are disease-resistant and enable Roy and his wife, Irma, to make delicious red wines comparable to those from warmer climates.
Roy determined to make the vineyard organic from the outset.
“In the 1970s, I lived on this land in a caravan and practised self-sufficiency, or ‘the good life’ as it was called back then,” he says.
“As part of this lifestyle, I grew organic fruit and vegetables. I worked in Hastings teaching English as a foreign language at the time, and I wanted to do something on the land, which I’d inherited from my grandfather.
“Having decided on vines, and knowing that I could grow vegetables organically, I wanted to grow the vines organically, too. Many people thought I was trying to do two impossible things: grow vines in England and grow organically!”
Despite the sceptics, Roy’s skill and determination paid off, and today the estate is thriving. As you walk through the vineyards, the tour leaflet and the signs tell you all about the organic and biodynamic growing practices used at Sedlescombe.
It’s an eye-opening and educational experience for young and old alike.
Sedlescombe Organic Vineyard is open daily from 10.30 a.m. to 5.30 p.m.
Adgestone Vineyard, Isle Of Wight
Adgestone Vineyard was established in 1968 and is among the oldest vineyards in the UK.
Their red, white, rosé and sparkling wines are available in the shop, and tasters of each are available.
They grow all their grapes on the estate, and produce the wine in purpose-built cellars. Ideal conditions for wine making.
The cool temperature keeps the requirement for additives to a bare minimum.
Guided tours, with digital headsets, take you around the full 10-acre vineyard.
You’ll learn about the wine-making process, from picking through to bottling. The tour eventually leads you into the subterranean cellars, where the wine is made, and concludes with a 30-minute wine-tasting session, where you’ll be invited to sample all eight of Adgestone’s quality wines.
Adgestone Vineyard’s grapevines have been selected from countries with similar climates to England, and at present, the winemaking vines on the estate are Rondo, Regent, Seyval Blanc, Phoenix, Gewürztraminer, and Schönburger.
There’s also a café and a farm shop selling local produce for visitors to enjoy. From May to October, the vineyard is open daily in the summer from 10 a.m. to 5.30 p.m (11 a.m. to 5.30 p.m. on Sundays).
Winter opening hours may vary.
Travel restrictions may still be in place. Please check latest advice before planning your trip.
For more information on English Wine Week, click here.
For more travel recommendations from the “Friend”, click here.