When you first think of wine you may visualise a crisp ruby red burgundy glistening in the French sunshine, or perhaps a full bodied fruity Italian bianco, but what about English wine? It may not be at the top of everybody’s tipple of choice list but maybe it’s about time it was. English wine is enjoying a Renaissance, with records showing that the number of British Vineyards has expanded by over half in recent years. In fact, English sparkling wines have won nine trophies for Best International Sparkling Wine and six for Best Sparkling Rosé in global competitions in recent years so there’s no better time to now experience them for yourself!
Kent & Sussex boast numerous award winning wine estates & vineyards with many offering tours, tastings, activities, delicious cuisine and accommodation. Best of England, a carefully curated portfolio of tourism related attractions throughout the country are particularly keen to support the promotion of English wine and as such have forged strong relationships and work closely with a handful of the best wineries in England.
Here, Best of England showcase their top 5 vineyards across the south of England.
Ridgeview Vineyard – Sussex
Ridgeview is a family run Vineyard, located near the quaint village of Ditchling. They pride themselves on producing the highest quality sparkling wines, using traditional methods and have received multiple awards for their great wine, including UK wine of the year, best sparkling wine and best English wine, among others. The Vineyard is open for tastings and sales throughout the week and they operate extremely popular tours of their Winery for just £15 on specific Saturdays throughout the year.
The tickets do sell out fast, so book in advance. www.bestofengland.com/ridgeview-vineyard/
Rathfinny Wine Estate – Sussex
The 600acre Rathfinny Wine Estate is situated on the west side of the beautiful Cuckmere Valley just three miles from the sea and half a mile south of Alfriston village. The owners are Mark and Sarah Driver who over the past three years they have planted 72 hectares of vines; by 2020, they will have 140 hectares, one of England’s largest vineyards. At the heart of the estate is the newly built winery and tasting room which is an architectural delight and powered by solar panels situated in the field behind. All the buildings have been built with locally sourced materials, using sustainable technologies such a photovoltaic cells and wastewater recycling. Rathfinny Estate encourage walkers to visit the vineyard and have worked with the National Trust and the South Downs National Park Authority to open the ‘Rathfinny Trail’ so that visitors can arrive by foot or by bike.
For more information please visit www.bestofengland.com/rathfinny-estate/
Bolney Estate – Sussex
Bolney have been making wine on their West Sussex Estate since 1972. Since then, they have been recognised on an international stage to be makers of world class wine. The estate remains a family run business by Samantha, the daughter of the owners and founders, Janet and Rodney Pratt. The estate is 39 acres and their winery is on site where all the wine is made. They also have a café on site, offering gourmet lunches, tastings and tours on a pre-booked basis as well as their new tourism facilities which were opened in June 2016.
For more information please visit www.bestofengland.com/bolney-estate/
Chapel Down – Kent
Chapel Down in Tenterden is an established Kent based wine estate and home to England’s leading winemaker. The estate produces a range of still and sparkling wines as well as their own beer and cider and enjoys 50,000 visitors per year. The winery is open all year round from 10am- 5pm and offer guided tours from March – November. They also have a modern British restaurant, herb garden and shop on site.
For more information please visit www.bestofengland.com/chapel-down-winery/
Gusbourne Estate – Kent
Gusbourne is a stunning English wine estate made up of 61 hectares in Kent and a further 32 in West Sussex near to the Goodwood estate. The first vines were planted in 2004 by Andrew Weeber who saw the potential of the existing farm land and the Kent climate. The wine making process is overseen by Charlie Holland who honed his skills in Australia, Germany, New Zealand and the USA before joining Gusbourne. All wine is made from their own harvest and the grapes planted are made up of the classic varieties of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier. 2016 has been a successful year so far for Gusbourne, not only were they awarded two Platinum Gold Medals at the Decanter World Wine Awards but in a recent blind tasting arranged by Britain’s Wine & Spirit Trade Association with an elite group of Parisian experts, the majority preferred the Gusbourne Rosé to a bottle of NV Ayala, Rosé Majeur from Champagne!
For more information please visit www.bestofengland.com/gusbourne-estate-appledore/
For a full list of all their recommended vineyards and much more please visit www.vineyardtours.co.uk