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The 6 Must-Visit English Vineyards for Wine Enthusiasts in 2024


Wiston vineyard

'Wine makes daily living easier, less hurried with fewer tensions and more tolerance.' - Benjamin Franklin


With that sentiment in mind, I'd add that my favourite days over recent years have been relaxing vineyard visits. When there is no hurry, and we can appreciate the nature, the process, and of course the wine. Not everyone is as wine obsessed as me, so I surreptitiously plot camping weekends, beach days out, or reunions with friends and family within spitting distance of a winery. With over 900 wine producers in Great Britain it isn’t difficult to find one to visit, instead it’s getting increasingly harder to keep up with them. Though surprisingly few people I speak to have taken the opportunity to visit an English vineyard. Why is that? They swoon over the chateaus and bodegas they seek out on holiday in Europe, and think how charming it is to drink your local wine without realising how easy it is to discover the gems on our doorstep.

 

This list is not the definitive guide, but rather the producers I genuinely have the best memories of visiting recently, and personally believe are making exceptional wines. Some are still under the radar, while others are house-hold names, most are traditional method sparkling wine producers while some excel in a range of still and sparkling wine styles. There is certainly something for every wine lover in England, so whether you're going by car, train & taxi, it’s definitely worth the detour, or better yet, a relaxing day out.

 

Six English Wine Estates to Visit this Spring/Summer:


Everflyht Vineyard

Ditchling, South Downs National Park



A fairly new single-estate vineyard, family owned and run. Their vineyards are organic and biodynamic with a focus on sustainability and quality grapes. They currently produce just two sparkling wines: a gorgeously crisp white sparkling Brut NV made of 47% Chardonnay, 47% Pinot Noir, and 6% Meunier aged on the lees for 20 months. The second is a deep pink sparkling rosé called Rosé de Saignée made from 66% Pinot Noir and 34% Meunier which offers more body and flavour concentration thanks to a 20 hour maceration on the skins. Both are delicious and ideal for gastronomic pairings like cheese & charcuterie, roast pork, sushi, salads.

I was invited for a harvest day at their vineyard in September 2023, and was impressed with how focused they are on using only the best grapes for their wine.

Vineyard manager, Luke Spalding guided us on what to pick, and what to leave behind, saying he fully expected to drop about 20% of the fruit if it’s not of exceptional quality. That day we picked Pinot Noir and were instructed to look for healthy, perfectly ripe (dark purple) berries. Anything underripe (with pink berries) or mouldy, or overripe was banned from our baskets. 

This is a small operation so they are not always open to the public, but guests can contact them directly to arrange a visit, or look out for their new season of wine tours here.

 

Tillingham

Rye, East Sussex



A progressive wine producer in Sussex that farms organically, biodynamically, with a philosophy of natural winemaking (re: no sulfur added). They are an experimental bunch continuously trying out new grape varieties, and practicing advanced and ancient winemaking techniques in small batches. This means many wines are produced in tiny quantities sold in their on-site restaurant, or in east London’s trendy natural wine bars, and once they’re gone, they’re gone. Last April 2023 I lead a group of wine lovers (an international group from USA, UK, Italy, and Nigeria) to visit the estate for the day. We had a tour of their beautiful grounds where they also keep farm animals (like adorable Hungarian pigs!) and have the UK's first Marani (a cellar installed with Georgian Qvevri) in the ground for fermenting and ageing a portion of their wines. We tasted through a range of styles from prickly Pet Nat, to skin contact amber wines, and exuberantly fresh chilled reds.

This is very much a minimal intervention and highly artisanal operation, not for everyone’s palate, but absolutely a gem in the English wine scene. They have two options for dining onsite: A casual wood-fired pizzeria where you can turn up and enjoy a meal with their wines. Or a more high-end and exclusive restaurant upstairs, with changing seasonal menu and wine selection that includes their own wines but also a range of international wines from other like-minded natural wine producers. The food in the restaurant is exquisite, it’s essential to book in advance.

 

Gusbourne

Appledore, Kent



Arguably England's most prestigious wine producer, Gusbourne has been a leading winery in every way. They excel in traditional method sparkling wines that rival the best of Champagne, while also expanding to other wine styles like still white, rosé, and reds, all exceptional quality that would appeal to lovers of Burgundy. Last year they launched 51degrees N – a very limited release of their Prestige Cuvée, retailing at £195, it is now England’s most expensive wine.

I am particularly fond of this producer as I’ve been following them and their progress for over a decade. In 2012 I interviewed the owner Andrew Weeber as they were still planting their vineyards, and were yet to build a winery and tasting room on site. I was thrilled about the appointment of Master Sommelier Laura Rhys (previously Head Sommelier at La Trompette) to be their Global Brand Ambassador. And this year they have announced a new winemaker in the house: Mary Bridges. It is wonderful to see more female winemakers at the helm of top estates.

They offer day visits and tastings at the winery which can be booked directly here.

Next month I am taking a group of wine lovers to visit Gusbourne for the day. We will tour the vineyards, winery, enjoy a tutored tasting of back vintages, and stay on for a 4-course lunch with their most iconic wines. Details to book here.

 




 

Wiston Estate

Pulborough, West Sussex



A beautiful wine estate by the sea coast, Wiston is on our way to Littlehampton, and last summer I couldn’t resist and called up to book a table for dinner after the beach. I packed spare clothes for us to change into, a hairbrush and some extra deodorant, hoping we’d be able to smarten up for a visit to their newly opened restaurant on site. CHALK (named for the famous soil type that its vineyards are planted in- same soil as Champagne) the restaurant is beautiful, fresh, and unfussy.

We felt extremely welcome by the staff, the food was brilliant: freshly grilled fish and gnocchi with local ingredients, posh sausages and mash on the kids menu with local ice cream. Wiston makes sparkling and still wines but it’s especially worth trying the sparkling white and rosé Brut NV- both available by the glass.

There was an enticing looking gift shop on the site, but was sadly closed at dinner time, next time will come earlier to buy the vintage wines they sell.

 

Albury Organic Vineyard

Guildford, Surrey




An hour's drive from West London, Albury is the ultimate picnic in the vineyards destination. Guests can taste through a flight of their wines alongside a delicious cheese board, or purchase chilled full bottles to enjoy with your own picnic. I've seen them partner up and offer Indian food pairings, etc with their wines, and they seem to have a rotation of unique experiences on their website with food, music, and wine. There isn't a winery on site, but the vineyard is dotted with comfortable tables and chairs, and guests are welcome to stroll through the vines which is very kid friendly. Next door is Silent Pool Gin, and down the road is one of the most beautiful English villages: Shere, which is dotted with adorable cafés, lifestyle boutiques and pubs.

Their still pink wine: Silent Pool Rosé, sells out every single year and is a fantastic local alternative to Provence rosé.

 

Chartham Vineyard

Canterbury, Kent



A charming, family-owned old barn converted to winery in 2012 with just over 2 hectares planted around their estate facing the River Stour. Chartham Vineyard is walking distance from the town of Canterbury – just 3 miles along a peaceful pleasant river path. Guests are welcome for a guided tour of the vineyard and tasting of their range. Advance booking recommended. Chartham Vineyard produces award-winning sparkling and white wines, but my absolute favourite discovery here is their Pinot Noir – a light body, light alcohol style with soft tannins and fresh acidity, with wonderfully pure cherry fruit intensity. Reminiscent of Oregon x Burgundy with an ethereal touch.

 


Bonus: The best books on English producers and vineyards.

 

In between vineyard visits go deeper in the English wine scene by picking up one of the latest books that offers a different angle and insight on this dynamic wine region.




Join me for an exclusive visit to an English vineyard!

Next month, on Saturday 11 May, I will be leading a small group of wine lovers on a gastronomic day trip to an English winery. The day begins with breakfast at London St. Pancras station, we will take the train together to Kent with a private taxi transfer to Gusbourne. There we will enjoy a full day that includes vineyard walks, guided winery tour, tutored tasting, and a 4-course lunch with special pairings from Gusbourne's Icon wine collection. There will be time to purchase wine to take home or enjoy more vineyard strolls before returning to London by 5:30pm. All levels are welcome to join. Click to read more and book your day trip.




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