English Wine Week is nearly upon us, with this celebration of locally-made bottles kicking off on 18 June 2022. And while this represents the perfect excuse to raise a glass, with English wines becoming increasingly highly esteemed, there’s never a bad time to pay a visit to some of the UK’s best vineyards.
An ideal way to support local businesses, enjoy a day (or weekend) out and, most importantly, learn about wine-making and taste different varieties, select vineyards offer group or solo wine tours complete with opportunities to sample their red, white or sparkling wines, and even homemade gin, while others offer a variety of one-day or weekend experiences. Whether you are arranging a birthday, anniversary or simply want to tick this activity off your bucket list, these are some of the best UK vineyards promising to take you behind the label.
Bolney Wine Estate, South Downs
Bolney Wine Estate has stood the test of time – quite literally – celebrating its 50th anniversary this year. The West Sussex-based vineyard boasts an impressive 18 acres of land, which has been divided into five unique vineyards. This hotspot has naturally harvested award-winning premium red, white, rosé and sparkling wines, as well as gin, all of which can be sampled during one of its numerous wine tours, held both in-person and virtually. Guests can choose from a cheese and wine tasting tour, a luxury cream tea experience, a breakfast tour and tasting or go all out with the Golden Tour, which honours the vineyard’s milestone year with a five-course tasting menu and paired wines.
Terlingham Vineyard, Folkestone
Terlingham Vineyard is a family-run affair that prides itself on creating award-winning homemade wines and gin. The wine tours have proved to be a sell-out success in recent months, so it’s safe to say you’re in good hands if you’re new to the wine world. The twice-daily tours offer a behind-the-scenes guide of the Folkestone site, educating guests on the wine-making process, while sampling various sparkling wines (and homemade cake) along the way. For those who want to up the ante, Terlingham also offers a Sundowners cocktail evening tutoring guests on its gold-award-winning Bacchus botanical gin. Don’t fancy being the designated driver? Book a room at Terlingham’s on-site B&B for a bed within stumbling distance.
Denbies Wine Estate, Surrey
Budding wine connoisseurs may already have Denbies Wine Estate on their radar, as it is the largest single estate vineyard in England. This Surrey hotspot is situated on an impressive 635 acres of land, with 265 acres under vine producing an astonishing 450,000 bottles of wine each year. The Denbies team prides itself on being eco-conscious, following the highest environmental standards and working with conservation bodies to preserve nature, while still delivering fantastic wines. Plus, it recently launched the first carbon-neutral vineyard hotel for those who want to turn their wine tour into a weekend break.
There are a selection of wine tours available, while visitors are also welcome to try the vineyard’s two restaurants, café and shop. To get the full experience Denbies recommends you book one of its outdoor vineyard train tours, in which guests are transported around the estate safari-style, alongside its hour-long indoor tour and tasting, which includes a cinema experience. Wine tours run multiple times daily with group reservations and even private wedding hire available.
Kerry Vale Vineyard, Shropshire
For those looking for an intimate vineyard in which to while away the hours, Kerry Vale’s family-run business is a must. This vineyard spans 13 kilometres and accommodates 6,000 vines across four varieties of grape, including Rondo, Pinot Noir, Phoenix and Solaris. With just one carefully curated wine tour on offer, which can be supplemented with cheese boards or afternoon tea, there’s no chance of newcomers feeling overwhelmed by choice. Those inspired by the grape-to-glass process, meanwhile, can adopt a vine of their own at Kerry Vale: a unique offering that oenophiles are guaranteed to appreciate.
Ridgeview Wine Estate, East Sussex
With over 25 years of winemaking expertise under its belt, this third-generation family-run business is a quintessential taste of British wine making. Ridgeview was recognised as Winemaker of the Year at the International Wine and Spirit Competition (IWSC) in 2018, and has received numerous other accolades. During the 90-minute classic wine tour you will learn about the hand-picking process, which is key to perfecting the array of sparkling wines produced on-site. Guests are also invited to enjoy afternoon tea at the Sussex site, or fully immerse themselves in all Ridgeview has to offer during the annual RidgeFest festival: a glorious annual celebration of food, music and wine that’s the next best thing to Glastonbury. (Well, almost.)
Chapel Down, Kent
The Chapel Down vineyard is located on the Tenterden estate, which provides an impressive backdrop during its wine tours. Long recognised as one of the leading wine producers in the UK, it creates award-winning sparkling and still wines, which are available to buy on-site, as well as in restaurants and supermarkets around the UK. Among the many experiences on offer to guests are theatre productions in the grounds of the estate and a host of luxurious tours, including the Deluxe Gift Experience, which includes a winemaking guide and three-course set lunch at The Swan, or a private tour with a three-course meal, followed by a two-night stay at the neighbouring Sissinghurst Castle B&B with access to its National Trust gardens. In fact, you may well find you’ll never want to leave and thanks to Chapel Down’s vine leasing scheme, a little part of you can always be in this wine lover’s idyll.
Leonardslee Lakes and Gardens, West Sussex
Leonardslee Lakes has recently reopened after almost a decade, and though the vineyard is still in the process of creating its debut vintage, which is set for release in 2023, visitors can sample flavoursome wines from its South African sister estate during one of its many wine tours, which range from self-tutored to luxury experiences. The four-acre Pinot Noir and Pinotage vineyard and new luxury accommodation sit among Grade I-listed gardens spanning over 240 acres, and overlook the expanse of the South Downs. Private wine tasting or a wine picnic can be enjoyed both mid-week and at weekends, while guests looking for an educational experience can book a tutored viticulture wine tasting tour, or learn the age-old technique of sabrage (opening a bottle with a sword). Alternatively, blow the budget on the Ultimate Experience, which is a combination of all the above plus an afternoon tea, for an unforgettable day well worth the £210 price tag.
Carden Park Estate, Cheshire
The Carden Park Estate is one of Cheshire’s largest commercial vineyards, spanning over three acres of the Carden Park Estate, which also boasts a hotel, golf course and spa. The site produces two sparkling wines, a classic Reserve and a Reserve Rose, both made with a blend of Seyval Blanc and Pinot noir grapes grown on-site. While vineyard tours aren’t currently available, each can be sampled alongside a gourmet feast at the estate’s restaurant, The Vines. Once you’ve found your favourite tipple, be sure to purchase a bottle of the naturally farmed wine to enjoy in the comfort of your own home.