Wine estates come alive at this time of year, as juicy grapes are plucked from their vines and sent to the winery for pressing and fermenting, before being turned into our favourite vinos.
While a few vineyards will close over the autumn months, many celebrate the harvest season with exclusive winery tours and tastings.
Some estates even ask for volunteers to help pick the grapes, which can be an incredibly fun and rewarding experience – especially as your hard work will often culminate with you enjoying a glass of sparkling wine.
Having started in late September this year, harvest in the UK lasts for just over a month, so now is an ideal opportunity to plan a visit to the vineyards dotted across England, to learn more about harvesting and winemaking.
With many of the country’s vineyards located in the South East, we’ve hand-picked a selection to visit.
Oxney Organic Estate
Location: Rye, East Sussex
Harvest has already begun at East Sussex’s Oxney, which is famous for making some of the best organic wines in the country – here, the 35 acres of vines produce around 20 per cent of all organic grapes grown in the UK. Oxney’s tour and tasting season started on 6 May this year, and will finish on 28 October.
Location: Puttenham, Surrey
Surrey-favourite Greyfriars is running tours in November, when you’ll have the opportunity to taste the new 2023 wines straight from the tank.
Location: Chicester, West Sussex
Family-owned Tinwood Estate, in the heart of Sussex, has put together the ultimate harvest package. Start the day with some light picking, as the winemakers guide you through how they hand-select the best grapes for every single one of their wines. You’ll then be given a three-course rustic harvest buffet, paired with three sparkling wines.
This one isn’t free (experience costs £65pp) but it makes a great gift for someone who has a real passion for wine or wants to learn more.
Stanlake Park Wine Estate
Location: Twyford, Berkshire
Just a short walk from Twyford station (on the Elizabeth Line), Stanlake Park is a great place for a day visit from London. During the harvest season, tour guests will be shown the whole winemaking process, including crushing, pressing and even the opportunity to taste the grape directly from the press if it’s available.
There’s also an on-site wine bar that serves all of Stanlake’s wines, as well as cheese and charcuterie platters. It’s a great date spot.
Exton Park Vineyard
Location: Exton, Hampshire
Hampshire’s Exton Park is a private estate but, during the harvest season, the vineyard opens its doors for a limited number of tours. The exclusive visit will include the chance to explore the vines, winery and Exton Hall, followed by a tasting. It’s a very intimate tour, ideal for people who want to learn a little more about English wine.
To book a vineyard tour, email: email@example.com
Location: Charing, Kent
This year, Westwell Wines will be undertaking its biggest harvest ever, so the estate needs all the help it can get. Very soon, the low-intervention vineyard will release tickets on Eventbrite for six dates when you can join in with picking the grapes. It’s free to attend, and Westwell will even lay on a big feast, overlooking the vines, with a glass of sparkling wine to celebrate.
To join the harvest, email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Location: Pulborough, West Sussex
Make it an experience to remember with a full day of picking at Kinsbrook Vineyard. Here, they ensure volunteers are well-fuelled, with pastries and coffees to start the day, followed by lunch and a glass of wine. If you stay for the afternoon, you’ll even get a bottle of wine to take home with you.
If you’d rather drink your wine than help make it, Kinsbrook also hosts harvest vineyard tours, supper clubs and music nights.
Location: Alfriston, East Sussex
Rathfinny Estate really knows how to celebrate the harvest season. Enjoy all aspects of the estate, from dining at the Flint Barns Harvest Restaurant to a unique harvest dosage tasting experience that explains how the addition of sugar in sparkling wine changes the style and structure.
If you want to make a weekend of it, book the harvest experience package, which includes an overnight stay at Flint Barns.
Other UK vineyards to visit
There are even more vineyards to visit across the rest of the UK. Check out Canalcome Vineyard in Devon, Chet Valley in Norfolk, Oaken Grove in the Chilterns, Velfrey in Wales, or England’s oldest vineyard: Hambledon in Hampshire.
Thirsty for more? Discover the best vineyards to visit in France
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