5 ways to experience English wine

Raise a glass to a thriving industry, says Harriet O’Brien

Pop a cork – from a bottle of English fizz of course - to celebrate English Wine Week (englishwineweek.co.uk). This countrywide celebration of the increasingly thriving English Wine industry begins on Saturday and events range from tastings of English wine and strawberries at Laithwaites stores to special vineyard tours. The underlying aim is to encourage those who have never sampled the stuff (a good half of the population, according to the English Wine Producers association) to give English wine a go.

From Jersey to Yorkshire, there are now more than 410 vineyards across the UK, including 16 or so in Wales. Recently, the big success story has been English sparkling white. This continues to be the strongest product for 2014 but there’s also a buzz about still whites this year. 

Eat, drink …

For an all-encompassing epicurean experience, head to the Flint Barn Restaurant of the English Wine Centre (01323 870164; englishwine.co.uk) at Berwick in Sussex. There’s an extensive (English) wine list and lots of advice about what goes best with the seasonal organic menu. Stock up on wine before or after: the shop is supplied by more than 100 vineyards.

Stay on a vineyard

Glass in hand, absorb the peace. Three Choirs Vineyards (01531 890223; three-choirs-vineyards.co.uk) in Gloucestershire is one of the most established wine producers to offer stylish accommodation, with 11 rooms set among the vines. Doubles cost from £135, including breakfast. Other options include the seven-bedroom farmhouse at Denbies (01306 876616; denbies.co.uk) near Dorking, with doubles from £98, including breakfast; and self-catering cottages at the Camel Valley vineyard in Cornwall (01208 77959; camelvalley.com), costing from £400 for a week for two.

Take a tour

Although tours are offered by many vineyards, by and large you can’t simply turn up – booking is essential. Guided visits range from a three-hour tour with lunch at the evolving Rathfinny Estate (01323 870022; rathfinnyestate.com) in Sussex (£55 per person), to the family atmosphere of award-winning Furleigh Estate (01308 488991; furleighestate.co.uk) in Dorset (Fridays and Saturdays £9 per person, including a tasting).

Follow a trail

The best options for wine trails are in the South East, which has the greatest concentration of vineyards. Produced in Kent (producedinkent.co.uk) publishes a free leaflet downloadable from its website that gives details of 14 vineyards and when they are open to visitors. In Sussex, Wine Rides (07967373958; winerides.co.uk) offers short-break bike trips on which you visit and camp at Carr Taylor vineyard near Hastings and Seddlecombe vineyard north of Battle. Two-nights cost from £195 including luggage transfer, tent hire, meals and wine tastings (bike rental extra).

A free map of vineyards in England and Wales is available in print from English Wine Producers (englishwineproducers.co.uk): fill out the form online and you’ll be sent a copy.

Get involved

For those who want to feel connected, vine “adoption” could be the answer. In exchange for a financial contribution for a year, a plaque is usually posted by the chosen vine, you get a bottle of that year’s vintage and have opportunities to be involved in the production. Among the vineyards offering such schemes is Pebblebed Vineyards (07814 788348; pebblebed.co.uk) in Devon, offering annual vine adoption from £55. Multi award-winning Chapel Down (01580 763033; chapeldown.com) in Kent has vine leasing schemes from £245 a year.

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