Wine making in England and Wales is thriving, with vineyards now covering 4,500 acres of the countryside. Florence Wright picks her favourite seven for a wonderful day out (with a tipple or two).
1. Three Choirs is a gorgeous vineyard situated within the Forest of Dean in Gloucestershire. It began back in 1973 as a small fruit farm, but now spans a vast 30 hectares and is recognised as one of the largest commercial wineries in England. There’s a strong international feel here due to the modern growing and cultivating techniques used. Tours and tastings are on offer to guests, along with B&B stays in their rooms or lodges. There’s also the chance to book onto specially tailored wine tasting breaks.
2. Camel Valley Vineyard in Cornwall can be considered one of the most successful vineyards in Britain. They’ve been awarded four international wine challenge trophies and six gold medals, and were crowned sparkling rose world champions in 2010 and 2011, along with many other achievements. They believe that what gives their wine the edge is their idyllic position on the sunny slopes by the Camel River, along with well-chosen grapes and a strong passion for wine. Guests can sit out on the terrace overlooking the stunning views and sip glasses of Camel Valley’s own wine, or choose one of the tours: a guided tour, a grand tour and tasting experience. Two beautiful cottages are also available for visitors to stay and are nestled within the vineyard.
3. Secret Valley Vineyard and Farm is located on the lush green hills of Somerset. The first vineyards were planted in 2008, and they now grow five different varieties including pinot noir, rondo, orion, solaris and reichensteiner. Specialist vineyard tours are on offer for wine lovers or there’s a tour for the whole family, showing off the vineyard along with the chickens, beef herd, potato production and the special growing of Christmas trees. Visitors can also stay and glamp – yurts, wigwams, tipis, lodges, lotus tents and shepherd huts are all available.
4. If you fancy getting stuck in and becoming part of the wine making process, then vineyards such as Pebblebed in Devon are well worth a visit. During September and October, they encourage volunteers to come along and help bring in the harvest. Guests are also welcomed to visit the winery or take part in a “Winemakers Tour” of both the vineyard and winery. They offer a range of award winning wines, grown and produced in a natural way, minimising the use of additives. Pebblebed started out as a community venture, with 11 local families coming together and planting half an acre of vines. Geoff Bowen, who oversaw the original project, now runs it with his wife and it has expanded to 20 acres of vineyards. The vineyard has venue space available for parties, and although there is no accommodation on the site itself there are many hotels less than a mile away.
5. The award winning Ryedale Vineyard also encourages volunteers to come along to help prune the vines. They are the most northerly commercial vineyards in the UK and the family-run business produces award winning wine from their 10 acres of vines, as well as fresh apple juice and cider from their acre of orchards. A range of tours of the vineyard are available, and there’s also the option to stay in the B&B. Their vineyards are vast, spreading across two farms, Fairfield and Paradise Farm, and the business has won awards for its wines every year since they were first released in 2009.
6. Adgestone Vineyard on the Isle of Wight is one of the oldest vineyards in the country, created in 1968. The south facing chalk slopes on the island make the location almost frost free, and thus a perfect location for growing vines – it’s thought that Romans grew vines on these slopes 2000 years ago. Adgestone vineyard also has a rather signature product, their “Arson-Fire” – Wine, jam, marmalade and dipping sauce are given an extra kick using one of the hottest chilli peppers in the world, the Dorset Naga. Adgestone offers audio tours of the vineyard, including a chance to see one of the last remaining subterranean commercial cellars. There is also bed and breakfast accommodation amongst the 10 acres of vines.
7. The vineyard on the Bolney Estate in Sussex is an award winning business situated in the village of Bolney on the edge of the South Downs, 10 miles north of Brighton. The sandstone soil in the area is great for the vines, which are also protected by the low altitude and surrounding woodland. Since it began in 1972 the vineyard has grown to 39 acres and a winery was added back in 2005. They specialise in premium red, white, rose and sparkling wines, many of which are award winning. The estate offers both a drop-on short tour and a longer vineyard trail. There are also several excellent bed and breakfasts in Bolney village, for visitors wishing to stay a bit longer.