With English wine on the up-and-up, the demand for wine tasting in the UK has never been higher. The quality and quantity of wine from England and Wales has been aided by the warmer British summers over recent years. As a result, vineyards offering classy and delicious tastings have sprung up all over the UK.
So, from the countryside to the capital, here’s our pick of the nine best wine tasting venues in Britain.
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Looking out of the tasting room window, the inspiration for the name is clear. Beyond the vines stretching out across the valley, the landscape rises towards the chalk escarpment of the South Downs, which divides the vineyard from Brighton and the sea. It’s not only a beautiful view - it also helps to explain why this part of Sussex has a flourishing wine industry.
Ridgeview’s mix of clay and chalk in the soil is well suited to the chardonnay and pinot noir found in champagnes and sparkling wines, and the moderating influence of the English Channel on winter frosts improves the chances of a good harvest on the northern fringe of European wine country.
The winery is open daily between 11am and 4pm for complimentary tastings (and sales). Tours can be pre-booked for £20 per person, and occasional “collaborative dinners” pair Ridgeview wines with food cooked by chefs working at the best local restaurants. For accommodation near Ridgeview, or any of the other Sussex vineyards try charming Ockenden Manor, which serves English wines with its tasting menu.
About five miles away, just off the A23, is Bolney Wine Estate, a burgeoning winery established in 1972, but much expanded in recent years. As well as chardonnay and pinot noir, Bolney also grows pinot gris and bacchus, from which it makes still varietals (the Estate Bacchus is a crisp, tart alternative to New Zealand sauvignon blancs).
Sparkling whites account for about half of the output, but Bolney is also flying the flag for red wines with a light, fragrant pinot noir, and a somewhat divisive sparkling red Cuvee Noir. You can try them for yourself at one several tasting events, ranging from a 45-minute tour and three-wine tasting (£10) to the Grand Gourmet tour (£45), which includes a two-course lunch and tasting plate paired with five wines and a dram of Bolney gin.
About 30 miles northwest of Ridgeview, on a south-facing slope of the North Downs, is Greyfriars vineyard. “Our terroir is a south-facing slope made up of several hundred feet of free-draining chalk with about six inches of scrappy topsoil,” says Mike Wagstaff, the winemaker. “Not great for some crops, but perfect for vines.”
It dates back 30 years - a long time in English wine production - although production was put on a commercial footing only in 2010. Now it makes 13 still and sparkling wines, including an oaked blanc de blancs for £23 and, away from the all-conquering chardonnay grape, still varietals of sauvignon blanc and pinot gris for £13.50.
Tours of the vineyard, priced at £20, can be prebooked on the Greyfriars website, and include an expert-led tasting - as well as a 10% discount on any wine bought on the day.
Rathfinny, East Sussex
Rathfinny, hidden in the rolling hills of neighbouring East Sussex, is the work of Sarah Driver, an ex-city solicitor, and her husband Mark, who served as a hedge fund management group founder before deciding in 2009 to obtain a winemaking degree at Plumpton College.
Skip forward a decade and one £10m land purchase and Rathfinny has started rolling out its long-awaited first products - two spectacular vintage sparkling wines sold under the “Sussex Sparkling” label, which the winery has successfully sought to make a protected denomination.
What’s special about Rathfinny, however, is its rather cosy nature, offering guests an indulgent place to stay at the estate’s on-site accommodation, The Flint Barns. With just ten rooms of rustic exposed red brick, this exclusive hotel is the perfect place in which to sample some of the best white wines the UK has to offer.
Langham Wine Estate, Dorset
At this environmentally conscious vineyard way down in the heart of the West Country, hand-picked grapes are processed on site “using an amalgamation of old and new methods, which visitors are talked through on the two hour long guided tours”, according to Country Living.
And if an afternoon of wine tasting really takes it out of you, a sumptuous collection of lunches and afternoon teas are available in the nearby milking parlour. With wines made solely from the classical Champagne grape vareties of Chardonnay, Pinot noir and Pinot meunier, this is high-quality fare - be sure not to miss their Rose NV, packed full of gorgeous berry flavours.
Camel Valley, Cornwall
Made up of 82 acres of rolling hills bathed in southerly sunshine, Camel Valley is Cornwall’s largest vineyard.
Visitors can join a number of tours and tastings, or sit on a stone-clad terrace, sipping Pinot Noir Rose Brut as they watch the sun set over vineyards that slope down to the River Camel as it snakes from Bodmin Moor to Padstow.
After having your fill of Cornish wine, you can stumble back to one of the site’s cosy self-catered cottages for a deserved break.
Llanerch Vineyard, Vale of Glamorgan
We couldn’t leave this list without at least one mention of the wines of Wales, which are an untapped gem of the British Isles. Hidden in the countryside near Cardiff, Llanerch has been quietly churning out award-winning wines since 1986.
So grab your best wellies (it can get muddy!) and book a tour of the grounds, complete with a generous wine tasting, before stopping off at the vineyard’s own Cariad Restaurant, where excellent food awaits.
Wine-making is an art form borne of rolling countryside and lush green landscapes, but sometimes tasting can benefit from the chic luxury that only a metropolis can give. Enter Quaglino’s, an exclusive bar a stone’s throw from the Ritz in Mayfair.
Though their tasting evenings are notably infrequent and not extensively advertised, good things come to those who wait. Some of the finest wines from every corner of the globe are brought to you as you marvel at the flaring bartenders, sample accompanying food and enjoy the vibrant atmosphere. This is wine tasting at its most modern and exciting.
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