Vineyards have been taking root all over the country in recent years, with the vineyard area doubling since 2008 and continuing to grow rapidly. That means that wherever you are in the country, you’ll not be too far away from one. If you’ve not yet visited your local wine producer, English Wine Week (Sat 28th May – Sunday 5th June) is the perfect time to do so, with plenty of places opening their doors for visits and tastings.
Most vineyards are, as you would expect, to be found in beautiful countryside. But even in London you can enjoy the full vineyard experience by visiting Forty Hall Vineyard in Enfield, close to M25 Jct 25. This 10 acre community vineyard grows Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier, Bacchus and Ortega and is offering free tours and tastings on Sun 5th June, 11am-12.30pm (email email@example.com to book a place). Also in London, Highbury Vintners are complementing their expanding range of English wines with a number of English wine tasting and ‘meet the grower’ sessions thoughout the week, featuring Furleigh Estate, Court Garden, Gifford’s Hall and Stopham Vineyard.
In Surrey, Greyfriars Vineyard has a free open day and wine tasting on Sat 28th May 10am-5pm. Visitors can meet the team behind the wines, enjoy a tour of the vineyard and a taste of Greyfriars’ range of delicious still and sparkling wines, including their fascinating sparkling Sauvignon Blanc, a grape variety rarely seen in the UK.
A few miles away, on the other side of Guildford, Albury Organic Vineyard are also open 11am-4pm on the 28th and again on the 30th for tastings of their still and sparkling wines, including their highly regarded Silent Pool rosé. Here Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier, Seyval Blanc and Pinot Gris grapes are all grown according to biodynamic principles. A tour and tasting package is on offer the following weekend, 11am, £10 per person.
Another organic producer, Quoins Organic Vineyard near Bradford-on-Avon, Wiltshire, are having a free open day on Sunday 5th June, 12-5pm. Quoins produce four still wines from their vineyard which was first planted in 2002.
Hambledon Vineyard on the edge of the South Downs in Hampshire are offering visitors the rare opportunity to see them bottling the bubbles on a special tour on Weds 1st June, 2pm. The tour will take in the vineyard and the winery, where visitors will be able to see the bottling line in action, and then taste Hambledon’s excellent Classic Cuvee. Everyone will also receive a bottle to take home. The cost is £35.
If you want the opportunity to try wines from lots of different producers at the same time, in Sussex the Brighton & Hove Food and Drink Festival has a two day celebration of English wines on 29th & 30th May. With around 25 vineyards attending, it’s the ideal way to take a tasting tour without the travel. And if food as well as wine is your thing, a visit to the restaurants at Three Choirs Vineyards, Hampshire or Chapel Down in Kent should be high on your list.
There’s plenty going on in the east too. On the evening of Sat 4th June, Crouch Ridge Vineyard in Essex are launching their inaugural vintage with tours, tastings of their Chardonnay/Pinot Noir still white and live music (6-11.30pm, £5 per person). And at Dedham Vale Vineyard in Suffolk there is a classic car rally on Sat 28th (11am-4pm, free entry) and a BBQ and live music the following day, from noon.
Vineyards do thin out a little the further north in the country you are, but even then there are plenty to seek out. Hanwell Wine Estate in the Midlands are growing vines for a sparkling wine due for release later this year and are welcoming visitors to their south Nottinghamshire vineyard for tours and tasting of local wines between 11am and 4pm on Sat 4th June. It’s a lovely spot, with a pond and wildlife walk and a warm welcome for children.
For a full list of English Wine Week events, head to www.englishwineweek.com. Remember, many of the vineyards not listed are open to the public at other times and will offer self-guided trails, tours, tastings and refreshments, often without the need to book. To find them, or to find your local vineyard, visit www.winecellardoor.co.uk.