Cheers! 5 up-and-coming English wine regions worth visiting
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When one thinks of planning a holiday to a wine region, England is typically not the first country to come to mind. But in fact, England is a real under-the-radar wine spot.
The U.K. is certainly no stranger to rain that might ruin the grapes, but the southern and eastern areas of England, with their warmer, drier climates and diverse soil are ideal for winemaking. And the vintners in these areas are producing world-class wine that can easily rival more established regions such as France, Spain and Italy.
You might not make it to the rolling hills of Tuscany this year, but you can still get your wine fix with a visit to some of these lovely locations. Best of all, air travel is not required. These up-and-coming wine areas in the U.K. are easy to get to for a quick day trip or a long weekend either by car or train. After many months of lockdown, these little holidays will be sure to satisfy that travel itch.
So pack your overnight bag and leave plenty of room for some boozy souvenirs with this round-up of wineries for your very own social distancing tipple tour around England.
Due to social distancing guidelines remember to check each location’s website for opening hours and visitor number restrictions.
Not far from London, Surrey has an array of wineries scattered about the beautiful countryside that offer tastings and tours. If you want to do some winery hopping, the vineyards of the Surrey Hills is the place to start. This scenic area near the North Downs has a cluster of award-winning spots such as Denbies Wine Estate in Dorking.
It’s England’s largest vineyard and you can drink wine while on a train tour of the estate for £12.50. Also worth checking out are High Clandon Vineyard, Albury Organic Vineyard, Chilworth Manor Vineyard and Greyfriars Vineyard for a boozy day you won’t forget.
Where to stay: The Vineyard Hotel was the first vineyard hotel in England. This stylish 17-room property situated in the middle of Denbies Wine Estate offers a breathtaking view of the grounds as well as an elegant restaurant and bar area. Prices start at about £135 a night.
2. East Sussex and West Sussex
Considered to be the “heartland of U.K. wine production”, the Sussex counties are home to many innovative wine estates that produce some mighty fine sparkling varieties that have made the rest of the wine world take notice. Pop by Oxney Organic near Beckley, East Sussex, England’s largest organic winery, for a guided tour and lunch that will set you back about £40.
Or you can stop by one of the pioneers of the industry, Bolney Wine Estate in Bolney, West Sussex, which started winemaking in 1972. Drop in for a quick look around or book the Grand Gourmet Tour that’s a two-and-a-half-hour intensive session with a history of English wine followed by a two-course lunch and a Bolney Estate Gin tasting, too.
Where to stay: Oxney Organic Estate has a few accommodation options including three old barns that have been converted into lovely holiday homes for groups of up to 18 people. Prices are £1,450 for the weekend. For a lovely romantic getaway for two, the Shepherd’s Huts might be a better option with prices starting at £100 per night.
Hampshire is home to two fabulous National Parks — the South Downs and the New Forest. And scattered throughout these splendid areas are where most of the region’s wineries are located. Visit Titchfield Vineyard, a small winery near the historic village of Titchfield, where you can personalise your wine label for a bespoke touch. Note that visiting the vineyard is by appointment only and the cost is £10 for a tour and tasting and £12 per person to include a cheese platter.
Also worth a visit is Raimes Vineyard near the village of Cheriton, a small boutique winery on a family farm dedicated to making English sparkling wine. Wine tasting tours are £12 per person.
Where to stay: Peppercorn Cottage is a charming restored “chocolate box” two-bedroom cottage just over a mile away from Raimes Vineyard. This place is equipped with a kitchen and a lovely garden and terrace to pop open one of your newly purchased bottle of wine. Rates start at £737 per night.
In the east of England, there are some of the premier wineries that produce the largest amount of pinot noir in the U.K. Warden Abbey Vineyard in Biggleswade is a community-run winery where the first grapevines were planted by monks at the former Cistercian Warden Abbey during medieval times.
It aims to “provide social, health and educational benefits for Bedfordshire whilst providing a financially and environmentally sustainable future for this historic vineyard”.
You can take a tour or volunteer to help around the winery if you have the time — but do check visitor opening days.
Where to stay: The Stratton House Hotel is a 17th-century grade II listed building with 30 bedrooms and a large restaurant. It’s situated in the heart of Biggleswade and only a half-hour from Luton airport. Rooms start at £77 per night.
For those bringing a furry friend along for the ride, Giffords Hall Vineyard near Long Melford is a dog-friendly winery that makes superb rosé, pinot blanc and East Anglican sparkling wine. There is a lovely vineyard shop, too, where you can get wines, of course, and hampers and liqueurs. Tours are £18.50 per person.
If you’re a history buff, Wyken Vineyards near Bury St Edmunds is an award-winning seven-acre winery where the estate was once occupied by the Romans. You can go and see a flock of Shetland sheep on its farm or shop at its market on Sundays to buy some delicious produce like bread and meats to soak up that wine.
Where to stay: Book a stay at Cabin in the Vines at the Valley Farm Vineyard near Halesworth. This tranquil eco-friendly cabin offers a luxury spot where you can get away from it all. Start with the free bottle of wine as you take yourself on a self-guided tour of the winery. Prices start at £120 per night with a minimum two-night stay.
Read more: The ultimate Suffolk road trip
We all enjoy drinking wine. But instead of popping to your local off licence to pick up your favourite, cut out the middle man and see where it’s all made with a wine trip. The wineries suggested above are easy to reach by car or train. And while you are there, explore the area nearby for an exciting weekend getaway.
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