Grab a pair of grape shears – England's vineyards need you

About Britain

With the grape harvest upon us, my eye is on my home county of Sussex, where wine producers – large and small – have been collecting awards like they're going out of fashion.

But there's also a buzz around some new and recently rejuvenated vineyards and wine businesses in an area where a fresh generation is breathing life into the local industry. And these new ventures are keen to tap into the tourist possibilities. So, from helping with the harvest, to tours and tutored tastings, visitors now have more chance to immerse themselves in the world of English wines.

Take Stopham Vineyard (stopham vineyard.co.uk), in the South Downs National Park, where owner Simon Woodhead planted 20 acres of vines just three years ago, an initiative which is about to delivery its first crop.

Simon has been racing to complete his state-of-the-art winery, where he will fully oversee making his mainly Alsace-inspired still wine. And he is inviting volunteers interested in taking part in the harvest to get in touch via his website. But hurry – because he expects to be picking for just one or two weeks in the middle of this month.

At other times, people can visit the vineyard, near Pulborough, by arrangement and Simon has plans to introduce wine tours and tastings.

Highdown Vineyard (highdown-vine yard.co.uk), situated on the coast between Littlehampton and Worthing, also welcomes help during its harvest, which takes place there throughout October. Put your name on the list and you could benefit from a pickers' lunch and a post-harvest party in return for your hard work.

Aly and Paul Englefield took over the Highdown Vineyard five months ago – just in time to pick up a Bronze Medal for their white Bacchus.

Aly puts her wine qualifications to good use running Saturday tours, which take in the vineyard and include a talk and a tasting of four Highdown wines. That's rounded off with a visit to the shop, which is well stocked with a range of wines from the south-east.

Meanwhile, Lurgashall Winery (lurgashall.co.uk), between Petworth and Haslemere in Surrey, relaunches on Friday under the ownership of Sarah Thompson and her family.

Lurgashall is a specialist producer of traditional meads (made from fermented honey), fruit wines and liqueurs – try the Silver Birch made from the sap tapped from local trees – the winery will also be offering short tours, tastings and group events, too.

Now that should warm your cockles as the nights draw in.

simone.freelance@mac.com

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