It's English Wine Week – 25 May – 1 June – so here's a round-up of some of our favourite English Vineyards. They all enjoy stunning country locations, and each makes for a great day out, with tours and tastings, a shop to buy your favourite tipples and often a decent restaurant too.
This, family-run concern prettily set in the Wealden countryside specialises in German grapes – Ortega, Bacchus, Schonburger and Reichensteiner – which flourish on the sunny, warm, south-facing slopes, Biddenden has racked up a host of awards to its name: the fruity Ortega is a sure-fire winner and their recent easy-drinking red Gamay Noir is delicious. They're also known for their ciders and apple juices, using the very best produce from this traditional apple-growing region. Tours every Saturday, April to September.
Snuggled in the Sussex countryside a few miles west of Haywards Heath, Bolney is one of a several southeastern vineyards that have been pulling in the plaudits in recent years – for its excellent sparkling wines, its Bacchus white and even a few reds. Family-run and relatively small-scale, its tours have a much more personal feel than some of the larger estates.
Camel Valley Vineyard
Since Bob Lindo planted his first vines on the sunny slopes of the Camel Valley over 20 years ago, Camel valley wines have become well known in wine-making circles across the globe. in for a glass of crisp, dry Atlantic Bacchus on the terrace, a spicy Camel Valley Red or – the most famous of the vintages – Cornwall Brut, and you'll see why the wines made here have racked up numerous accolades on the international scene.
Even if you don't know your Bacchus from your Pinot Noir, Chapel Down, a few miles from the pretty Kentish village of Tenterden, offers a really enjoyable way to familiarise yourself with the best of British. If you're simply after a pleasant stroll, pick up a map at the shop, which details a number of trails that crisscross the 68-acre estate. To peep into the more technical aspects of the process, take a guided tour , with an informal tutored tastings at the end. Even if you don't have time for a tour, the shop is a must, selling all the Chapel Down favourites, from the elegant sparkling Three Graces to the Flint Dry white, redolent with fruit aromas. . To top it all there's an excellent restaurant, the Swan at Chapel Down, where you can dine on Modern British food on an outdoors deck, with fabulous vineyard views all around.
England’s largest single estate vineyard – producing 12 award-winning wines, including a world-beater in the shape of its Chalk Ridge Rose, which took top gong at the International Wine Challenge Competition. The best way to appreciate this, of course, is to come and do a tasting. Wine tours operate all year round (with outdoor and indoor options), and there's even a 'Vineyard Train' that runs around the vines.
There are several vineyards in Dorset, where vines thrive in the chalky soil, not to mention the mild climate, but this is one of the most recent and smallest, just 23 acres in all and dating back to just 2007. Just outside Poole, it specialises in sparkling wines, and produces three different alternatives, each named after a type of oak. They run regular two-hour tours and tastings and double up as bespoke wedding venue.
In the heart of Kentish wine country, this vineyard doesn't only produce great wine – it's best known for its Balfour sparkling Rose – but is a beautiful place to visit too, with the winery just one part of this lovely estate. You can stroll through the vineyards, orchards and ancient oak woodlands, either on self-guided tours with a tasting at the end, or on more formal tours where you get to see the winemaking up-close and spend more time tasting a variety of wines at the end. They also own a great local pub, the Goudhurst Inn, where you can round it all off with dinner.
The vines at Sharpham enjoy a delectable position, nestling along the banks of the River Dart just south of Totnes and with the help of the delectable local climate they produce around 100,000 bottles of top quality wines a year here. You'll receive a friendly welcome and an opportunity to try the wines, as well as the Sharpham cheeses that are also produced on the estate. Make sure you also allow time for a coffe or lunch at The Vineyard Cafe.
Situated on the Scilly Island of St Martin's, this is the UK's most southwesterly vineyard, and it has made the most of the islands' sub-tropical climate since Val and Graham Thomas started it in 1996, finding a new use for their dwindling flower farm. Sheltered behind dense pittisporum hedges, you'll find vines of many different varieties as well as a newly planted apple orchard. Tours and tasting run throughout summer, Tuesday-Thursday.