English wine continues to go from strength to strength, and a trip to a vineyard is a wonderful way of finding out more about the way the industry works – and discovering some delicious new wines, too. Most are open from late March or early April until October, so now’s the time to start planning your visit.
Nanstollen, Cornwall, PL30 5LG
On a sunny day, multi-award-winning Camel Valley (above), near Bodmin, feels almost Continental. Visitors can take part in a tour led by the enthusiastic and knowledgeable (but never snooty) staff, or order wine by the glass or half glass to sip on the terrace while they admire the view of the vines below. The Grand Tour and Tasting (£12.50 per person, booking essential) runs every Wednesday evening at 5pm, between April 1 and October 30, with additional Thursday tours during August.
The Chapel Down Winery
Tenterden, Kent, TN30 7NG
Chapel Down, which has been producing wine on its Tenterden site for 22 years, is fast making a name for itself as one of the top-flight English wineries. You’ll find out some of the secrets of its success on a guided tour and tasting, which run three times daily from April to October. They book up quickly, so it’s best to telephone before you set off. On a fine day people who’ve joined Chapel Down’s Vine Leasing Scheme, where you sponsor a vine, can picnic in ‘their’ vineyard too.
Denbies Wine Estate
Dorking, Surrey, RH5 6AA
walk around a vineyard when you can tour it on a train? The star attraction at Denbies (above) is the Outdoor Vineyard Train (£6 per person for a 45-minute
trip, or £10.50 with a glass of Denbies Sparkling Cuvee), which trundles
past the vines daily from March to November. A recorded commentary will
tell you everything you need to know. Also on offer are virtual tours
in the cinema, indoor winery tours and cellar tastings.
Three Choirs Vineyard
Newent, Gloucestershire, GL18 1LS
A real place of pilgrimage for wine lovers, 75-acre Three Choirs combines a working winery with a restaurant serving delicious locally sourced food, accommodation on the edge of the vineyard and an excellent shop. Guided tours and tastings (£12.50 per person) run all year round, as well as a vineyard walk that incorporates a nature trail.
Westow, York, Y060 7LS
English wines are made in the Home Counties or the South-West. But
family-run Ryedale Vineyards (above), at the foot of the Yorkshire Wolds, has
proved itself to be a real Northern star. You can explore the 10 acres
of wines before peeking into the winery and meeting winemaker Stuart.
Afterwards, you’ll taste wines in the garden, or, if it’s a little
chilly outside, in the farmhouse kitchen. Look out for the Yorkshire
wine-and-cheese events, which take place throughout the year.