Things to Do
Wineries to cover by road around London
Add a winery visit on your road journey around London
The world of English wines is more thrilling than ever and has gone from strength to strength in recent years. While we have had vineyards and wine-growing since the 11th century, both quality and appreciation have increased in the last 10byears, with English wines frequently winning scoop awards from top Champagnes.
It is rumored that English bubbles were poured at both Prince Harry and Meghan Markle's weddings, as well as Kate Middleton and Prince William, and with top Champagne house Taittinger having bought land in England, you know the quality is severe. Not all of the big business Champagne brands, however, and some of the most delightful English wines come from small-scale and family-owned wineries.
Why not see for yourself, take a road trip through the hills of the English countryside and experience a stomp through the vineyards. From Kent to Cornwall, you'll find some of the best boutique and family-owned vineyards to visit by road.
Simpson's Wine Estate, Barham, Kent
After 16 years of rosé production in Languedoc, France, Charles and Ruth Simpson moved to Kent's North Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty to apply their expertise to winemaking in England. Proudly producing one of the country's highest quality still wines, the renowned Roman Road Chardonnay, they are also expected to release their first sparkling rosé in the autumn of this year.
Join the 'Sunset Session' tour that begins with a stroll around the popular Roman Road vineyard and ends with a taste and a ride down the helter skeleton! If that's not enough to get to your head, the €29.50 ticket price also includes a visit to the winery, a plate of locally sourced cheese and charcuterie and wine sampling samples.
A beautiful country getaway just an hour from London, Rathfinny Estate is a relative newcomer to the English wine scene, created in 2010 by the husband and wife team Mark and Sarah Driver. Situated on a fine, sunny slope in the South Downs, the vineyards lie on the same chalk soils as the Champagne region, fine for coaxing 'Sussex Sparkling' of the highest quality.
Take your own self-guided trek along the Rathfinny Trail, or book a guided tour of the vineyards where wildflowers planted between the vines promote butterfly swarms that make you feel like you're in a fairy tale. Tours provide a guided wine tasting, which can be perfectly rounded off with lunch or dinner at The Tasting Room Restaurant, or overnight at the stunning Flint Barns housed in the vineyards with an idyllic view of the countryside.
Possibly you can't make it to the vineyards but still want a taste of the action, head to the Ham Yard Hotel between the 6th and 17th of August, where Rathfinny will be popping bottles of sparkling Rosé Brut or Blanc de Blancs on the roof as part of a summer pop-up.
Raimes English Sparkling, Hampshire
Try a boutique tour of the Raimes family farm near Aylesford for a charmingly intimate and small scale experience. Robert and Augusta are the fifth generation of the family to farm here, growing beautifully ripe grapes from thriving vines, award-winning sparkling wines and hosting the annual Hampshire Wine Festival.
Tours are just £ 10 and take you to the charming village of Hampshire, complete with lovely villages and views of lush green valleys. You'll get a glimpse of life at a working farm and a taste of tasty English fizz in the wine barn. The small size of Raimes means that tours are only available on selected dates, so be sure to book in advance.
Legends on the English winemaking scene, when they planted vineyards over 30 years ago, Bob and Annie Lindo created Camel Valley with the first wines made in 1989; With a wide variety to try, you can taste your way through the Camel Valley 'Cornwall' Brut, the sparkling Rose Brut, the deliciously crisp still Bacchus Dry, and the fun sparkling cider, among others. But nestled in the beautiful Cornish countryside, the wines are vying for the best excuse to visit, and you can follow the Camel Trail all the way across the farm to the sandy beaches of Padstow.
When you book the Grand Tour, the winemaker will take you through the vineyard year and the winery process, from flowering to harvesting to bottling, followed by the tasting of five wines, including the critically acclaimed Cornwall Brut. To make a real holiday, book a stay in one of the two cottages overlooking the vineyards and the nearby lake, for a vineyard adventure that gives the south of France a run for its money.