According to GB Wine, sales of English and Welsh wines show an ever-growing thirst for British wine worldwide.
Lockdown has led to a boom in domestic wine tourism which has meant many of the UK’s 500 beautiful country vineyards have upgraded to provide luxury accommodation to international wine tourists. Counties like Yorkshire and Wiltshire have recently opened up new wine trails.
In the “Home County” of Sussex, the current “Green List” options range from a choice between sampling winemaker Salvatore Leone’s classic English wines while staying in a shepherd’s hut or the Vineyard House at Oxney Estate in the High Wealds or Rathfinny’s en-suite flint barns (www.rathfinnyestate.com).
The Bed and Breakfast accommodation is a beautifully restored 18th-century barn located on the western side of the Rathfinny Wine Estate. The barns were destroyed in a storm during the 80s and, after owners, Mark and Sarah Driver purchased the land in 2010, they restored some of the original foundations using locally sourced oak and flint to honor the historic character.
The Flint Barns has since transformed into a ‘boutique-style hotel with a restaurant headed by Estate Head Chef, Chris Bailey who will also prepare a Vineyard Picnic for you surrounded by the South Downs countryside.
Also in Sussex is Tinwood Estate Lodges next to the famous Goodwood Estate and racecourse. Order some house Blanc des Blancs if you win. Or get close! The vineyard has 3 contemporary and luxurious timber-clad lodges offering peaceful accommodation and free use of mountain bikes. You can also glamp. Sussex also boasts a South African pinotage vineyard which is also a wallaby farm. Leonardstere Gardens in Horsham was once owned by a Victorian plant hunter who brought the wallabies back from Tasmania.
The Bull in Ditchling, East Sussex, is a five-minute drive from Ridgeview Estate, one of the finest producers of award-winning English sparkling wine. have some of their Oak Reserve or Fitzrovia rose. A gastropub with rooms. The Bull won The Great British Pub Awards in 2016. Hush Heath/Balfour winery and estate Kent has the Goudhurst Inn and Tickled Trout pub nearby. If you want to sample some Nyetimber’s feted English sparkling at source and to stay in an old pub try The Spreadeagle Hotel in Midhurst. (www.hshotels.co.uk).
You can also stand in Brazilian America Brewer’s quirky Hobbit House at her Oastbrook vineyard in the Rother valley. The vineyard also has Bodiam castle in it. Frodo would be at home. Nearby is a very highly thought-of restaurant – “The Curlew”.
In Surrey, near Gatwick airport and not far from Heathrow, is the UK’s largest vineyard, Denbies Estate in Dorking, which has a plush Vineyard Hotel as well as a renovated 1850s farmhouse. Inspiration for the signature vine wallpaper is drawn from the Jane Austen House Museum.
Chapel Down near the market town of Tenterden, Kent, is the first English wine producer to feature in the London Stock Exchange’s ‘1,000 Companies to Inspire Britain’. A short drive away (even by British standards) is The Woolpack Inn.
Coddington Vineyard, a small estate near the Malvern Hills and Cotswolds, makes award-winning Bacchus white wine. You can stay in the picturesque two-bedroom Grade II-listed Hop Cottage or the Vine Lodge log cabin.
Probably the most romantic place for an English vineyard vacation is the old Georgian Bathing House on the banks of the idyllic River Dart in Devon in the eighteenth century Sharpham Estate laid out by landscape architect Capability Brown. As well as top-class wine, Sharpham also produces some of the country’s best cheeses. Try Sharpham Pinot Noir with Sharpham Brie and Ticklemore Goats with the Pinot Gris Wild Ferment. Sharpham Rustic with sea lettuce and dulse (red seaweed) pairs superbly with the Sharpham. And have the Sparkling Blanc and Estate Selection while you’re there.
The stylish timber lodges at Three Choirs in Gloucestershire “overlooking vine-clad valleys” border the three counties of Herefordshire, Gloucestershire, and Worcestershire.
Four Seasons Hotel on Chalky Lane, Dogmersfield Park is a privileged base for cellar door tastings at vineyards like Hattingley Valley and Hambledon. The latter is England’s oldest commercial vineyard and the cricket stumps on its logo commemorate the village’s role in the development of the sport.
Ryedale Vineyards, Westow, near York – first planted in 2016 – is a converted shire horse stable and the most northerly commercial vineyard in Britain You can stay in its 500-year-old beamed farmhouse, or its offers the quintessentially quaint rose-covered Far Field Cottage from which you can explore the Yorkshire Wolds.
It is not that long ago now since Sir Peter Ustinov, the British actor, and writer said hell was British wine. English and Welsh wines are now earning awards and gaining international reputations. The 37-room 1851 Llanerch Vineyard in Ely Valley, was probably the UK’s first hotel and vineyard. It produces Welsh Cariad (“love”) wines as well as wines from Orion, Huxelrebe, and Bacchus grapes. The Vale of Glamorgan hotel offers an Enomatic wine dispensing machine. Your room key allows you free self-guided tastings.
If a great wine-tasting break or vineyard staycation can ever be said to be truly and wholly memorable, check out the quaint three-bedroom “Ortega” holiday cottage in the Polgoon Wine Estate near Penzance in Cornwall run by former Newlyn fish merchants John and Kim Coulson. There you can taste the single state Seyval and other wines. And afterward, quite happily, safely, comfortably, and legally spend the night asleep in the middle of an English vineyard.