Wine produced in Britain has gained critical acclaim in recent years. Try for yourself with our pick of the best vineyard experiences in the UK, plus facts about the UK’s wine.
Wine from the United Kingdom is generally classified as either ‘English wine’ or ‘Welsh wine’, referring to its actual place of origin. The term ‘British wine’ is used for fermented grape juice or concentrate that can originate from anywhere in the world. There are now more than 430 vineyards in England and Wales and one in Scotland, with most concentrated in the south east which generally enjoys warmer climes. The average vineyard size is 3.3 hectares and Britain produces more than two million bottles of wine a year, with sparkling wine accounting for 60 per cent of the UK’s wine.
When was wine first produced in the UK?
The Romans introduced wine production to England and even attempted to grow grapes as far north as Lincolnshire. You can’t fault them for trying.
Millennia ago, when Britain was part of the European landmass, large swaths of south-east England were joined to what is France’s modern day Champagne.
How long does it take to harvest for wine?
It takes at least four years before you can harvest the grape when you establish a vineyard.
Best vineyards to visit in the UK
Chapel Down Wines, Kent
Chapel Down have a host of awards for their wines including Gold for their Rose Brut at the International Wine Challenge 2011. However, the vineyard itself has also been collecting awards including ‘Kent’s Best Vineyard’ in the Taste of Kent awards and Best Leisure and Tourism Business 2010 at the annual Kent Excellence in Business Awards. It is not really a surprise, Chapel Down definitely have the experience wow-factor with charted Merlin Balloon rides and private tours, tank tasting, fine dining, food and wine matching tutorials, VIP tours and sabrage demonstrations – all as part of their Deluxe and Bespoke gift packages. www.chapeldown.com
Glyndwr Vineyard, Vale of Glamorgan
The oldest established and family-run vineyard in Wales, Glyndwr vineyard was planted in 1982 by Richard and Susan Norris and is situated among lovely National Garden Scheme gardens. Visitors are welcome to wander through the apple trees and look at the ponds in the gardens where chickens, ducks and pheasants roam free. The vineyard is run with the environment in mind as hedges are left to grow wild to encourage wildlife and the vines are treated with organic materials. Tours are lovely and feature Welsh cheeses and home-cooked meals as well as walks around the vineyard with its star attractions, the llamas! There is also a really gorgeous B&B cottage in the centre of the wildflower garden for visitors to stay in. www.glyndwrvineyard.co.uk
Camel Valley, Cornwall
Producing some of the best wines in the UK, Camel Valley’s awards speak for themselves. The 2008 White Pinot Noir Brut and 2009 Pinot Noir Rose Brut are just a couple of the fantastic wines that have won and you can try on the vineyard’s Grand Tour and Tasting. If you want to spend more time in this picturesque location, there are two lovely holiday cottages available, which also come with a seasonal salmon fishing license for guests to use. www.camelvalley.com
Three Choirs Vineyard, Gloucestershire
Three Choirs Vineyard is an idyllic place to visit or stay with lots of things to do. The vineyard tours are combined with a nature trail with hedgehog and ladybird nesting boxes, ponds with fish and waterfowl, owls, rabbits, badgers and more. You can dine at the Vineyard Restaurant and The Vine Room, take cookery courses, ‘adopt a vine’ or stay on site in one of the lodge rooms. www.three-choirs-vineyards.co.uk
Grapes growing on grapevines for British wine production at The Three Choirs Vineyard, Newent, Gloucestershire (Photo by Tim Graham/Getty Images)
Denbies Vineyard, Surrey
Situated in Surrey, Denbies is the UK’s largest vineyard and the soil in the area has been considered perfect for growing grapes since the Romans lived there. Tours feature a surround-vision cinematic experience, tours of the indoor winery and a train that takes you around the estate as well as a running commentary from your guide. There are year-round events listings and the site has two fine-dining restaurants.
View over autumn vines at Denbies Vineyard, near Dorking, Surrey (Getty)