The best vineyards in England and Wales

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Brilliant English and Welsh wineries are not the rarities they once were. There are now 500 working vineyards around the UK, and nearly half of those welcome visitors. In Hampshire, where Hambledon spearheaded a British wine revival that took shape way back in the 1950s, around 30 are open to the public and even lesser-celebrated winemaking spots such as Yorkshire have a dozen for visitors to explore. Spring and summer are the best times to go, when many have winemaker-led tours or self-guided walks.

Often small and independent, no two vineyards are alike, but all offer an interesting foodie angle on the British countryside. Some are polished and commercial (Hush Heath Estate in Kent), others charmingly eccentric or set on lovely old farms (Giffords Hall in Suffolk); a few are even cool, such as Castlewood in Devon. And when outdoorsy National Trust properties become de facto adventure playgrounds during school holidays, vineyards are more relaxing, grown-up environments to seek out. Yes, they are all trying to sell you something, but it’s not a hard sell when you’re into their sparkling wares.

  • The best vineyards in England and Wales

    Oxney Organic Estate, Sussex

    Organics in an East Sussex oast house

    The winery at Oxney is in an old hop house framed by a wildflower meadow. Its organic bottles – which are still rare in the UK – won gold at the prestigious International Wine Challenge awards last year. After a tour, sit beneath a canvas roof for a glass of rosé and one of Oxney’s picnics of local cheese, charcuterie and chutney packed in a willow basket. There’s also a pair of tongue-and-groove shepherd’s huts to book for a sleepover in the vineyard, as well as farmhouse and barn beds.

    Case to take home: Two bottles of Pinot Noir Rosé; one bottle of sparkling rosé 2016; two bottles of English sparkling 2016; one bottle of second fermentation cider.

    Address: Oxney Organic Estate, Hobbs Lane, Beckley, Rye, East Sussex TN31 6TU


    Website: oxneyestate.com

  • The best vineyards in England and Wales

    Rathfinny Wine Estate, Sussex

    Sparkling sustainability in East Sussex

    Year-round tours run at Rathfinny, during which guests learn how Mark and Sarah Driver’s RIBA-nominated winery produces its sparkling bottles using a traditional method – a type of winemaking conventionally used in France for Champagne that basically means the wine is fermented in the bottle. There’s also a restaurant with views of the South Downs and a produce-led menu of smoked goose with Yorkshire rhubarb, cod with braised, wild-garlic-stuffed onion, or wood-roasted beetroot with crispy cavolo and goat’s cheese. Plus there’s a stylish B&B stay on the estate at the 10-bedroom Flint Barns. In the summer, events see wine meeting art, astronomy and meditation (not all at once).

    Bottle to take home: The Blanc de Noirs 2015 (each guest is allowed to buy one bottle of each sparkling wine, and cuvées in cases).

  • The best vineyards in England and Wales

    Camel Valley, Cornwall

    Wine with a view in the south west

    Ex-RAF pilot Bob Lindo and his wife Annie planted their first 8,000 vines in 1989. Now, son Sam is head winemaker at Camel Valley, where the sunny fields – Cornwall is often one of the hottest spots in the UK during summer heatwaves – are ideal for viticulture. The tasting terrace and two stone-built holiday cottages have wonderful views over the central Cornish countryside. There are drop-in tours of the vineyard at 2.30pm between April and September, or visitors can book ahead for an outing and wine-tasting session that covers five different bottles – they take place on Wednesdays at 5pm.

    Case to take home: Six bottles of sparkling Pinot Noir Rosé Brut, a delicate pale pink that’s floral and refreshing.


    Address: Camel Valley, Nanstallon, Bodmin, Cornwall PL30 5LG


    Website: camelvalley.com

  • The best vineyards in England and Wales

    Hush Heath Estate, Kent

    Nature walks and first-class fizz

    The world-class winery on the Hush Heath Estate, where Balfour wines are made, is set among 400 acres of orchards, ancient oak woodlands and wildflower meadows. The owners not only have one of the most prestigious names in English sparkling wine, but also eight smart pubs and hotels, most of which are within an hour’s drive; the closest are the Goudhurst Inn and the Tickled Trout.

    Case to take home: Balfour Brut Rosé 2015. It was the first bottle made by Hush Heath Estate and remains its flagship wine.

    Address: Hush Heath Estate, Five Oak Lane, Staplehurst, Tonbridge, Kent TN12 0HT


    Website: hushheath.com

    Llanerch Vineyard, Wales

    The green, green vines of the Glamorgan Valley

    One of the oldest grape-growing estates in Wales, Llanerch has lots to offer alongside its elegant wine brand, Cariad. In 2019 a hotel opened in the middle of the vines; and there’s also an on-site cookery school and restaurant, just 20 minutes’ drive from Cardiff. Vineyard tours and tastings can be tailored to guests, and take place from April to October.

    Case to take home: Two Cariad Sparkling Brut, two Cariad Sparkling Blush, and one each of the dry white and rosé.

    Address: Llanerch Vineyard, Hensol, Vale of Glamorgan, Wales CF72 8GG


    Website: llanerch.co.uk

  • The best vineyards in England and Wales

    Ryedale Vineyards, Yorkshire

    Friends in the north

    One of the two winemakers at England’s most northerly commercial vineyard will show you around the winery throughout the week. On the edge of the Howardian Hills, close to food lover’s favourite Malton, the estate has a cellar-door shop, and two peaceful B&B rooms in the farmhouse. It’s small and friendly, with tastings taking place in the garden or the farmhouse kitchen.

    Case to take home: Two each of the Strickland Red, the Rosie and the Yorkshire’s Lad white.

  • The best vineyards in England and Wales

    Astley Vineyard, Worcestershire

    Boutique bacchanalia in the Malverns

    A visit to family-run Astley means hearing tales from the winemakers themselves. This Worcestershire vineyard is old-school: it focuses on grape varieties grown in England, such as Bacchus and the signature cepage, Kerner. The shop and tasting room, however, are newer, and the sell-out tours walk a small group through the vines on summer afternoons.

    Bottle to take home: Go for the 2018 rosé Branwen, which is fruity, aromatic, dry and refreshing – and good with food.

    Address: Astley Vineyard, Hampstall Lane, Stourport on Severn, Worcestershire DY13 0RU


    Website: astleyvineyard.co.uk

  • The best vineyards in England and Wales

    Castlewood Vineyard, Devon

    Fizz and festivals in the Axe Valley

    In 2006, Rob Corbett started planting the vines at Castlewood by hand. Now, private tours with tastings (and cheese) take place in the cellar door at this Devon vineyard. The bottles are made in old stone farm buildings at a nearby winery, and the steep slopes have amazing views of the Axe Valley and out towards the English Channel. There’s an annual festival in June to celebrate the release of the latest vintage, with a sharing-style seafood supper from West Country local Sally’s Fish Camp – stacked with crab, shrimp, Dorset smoked salmon, pate and locally made sourdough – plus live music. Stay in one of the Grade II-listed cottages with pretty gardens.

    Case to take home: A mixed case of NV Brut and NV Rosé. Or splash out on the current vintage sparkling wine, if still available.

    Giffords Hall Vineyard, Suffolk

    Family-owned villagey vines

    In easy reach of pretty villages Lavenham and Long Melford, Giffords Hall Vineyard was planted in the 1970s on the sandy clay of an ancient glacial riverbed, where Hebridean sheep now graze – they nibble around the vines, keeping the area tidy. Its new barrel hall and winery (currently an old grain store) will be opening in August 2020. Group tours are scheduled in spring and summer, or you can book privately. The vineyard has a partnership with National Trust house Ickworth, which has squat red-brick cottages and a restored gamekeeper’s lodge if you’re looking for somewhere smart to stay nearby.

    Case to take home: Try half and half of two English wines, the St Edmundsbury red, and the white Madeleine Angevine.


    Address: Giffords Hall Vineyard, Hartest, Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk IP29 4EX


    Website: giffordshall.co.uk

  • The best vineyards in England and Wales

    Greyfriars Vineyard, Guildford

    Still, sparkling and asanas in Surrey

    About 70 per cent of English wines are sparkling, but boutique maker Greyfriars produces both still and sparkling bottles. The family-run vineyard is an hour’s drive from London, yet the scene below its viewing deck, where tasting events take place, is utterly rural. The cellar-door shop is open year-round, and yoga and Friday wine nights take place in the summer.

    Case to take home: The 2014 Sparkling Rrosé Reserve; 2014 Sparkling Classic Cuvée; Blanc de Noirs NV, 2015 Cuvée Royale; 2018 Sauvignon Blanc; 2018 Pinot Gris.


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