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Best English vineyard breaks

For walks with verdant views and bottles of local brut, take a trip to one of England’s ripening crop of vineyards. From Cornwall to Yorkshire, Sophie Dening has a break to suit everyone.

Hush Heath Estate and Winery, Kent

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Dedicated to making world-class sparkling rosé, Hush Heath centres around a Tudor-frame manor house with gorgeous gardens and acres of ancient orchards and woodland. Visit the winery shop to enjoy an self-guided exploration, or book for a guided tour (six people minimum) for £15.

What to eat An autumnal dish of pumpkin gnocchi with sage and slow-roasted tomato sauce at the estate’s own Goudhurst Inn. If you take the guided tour, you can buy a hamper of local ham, pork pie and homemade piccalilli to enjoy on the terrace.

What to drink Balfour Brut Rosé 2010.

Where to stay Stylish, airy doubles at the Goudhurst Inn start from £80.

Kingscote, West Sussex

Not just a vineyard but a full-on countryside experience founded by the late Christen Monge, Kingscote promises clay-pigeon shooting, fishing, and a cookery school (one-day courses have just been launched), as well as vineyard tours and tastings. Book a gourmet vineyard tour and you’ll get a simple lunch included.

What to eat There’s a tiny coffee shop serving Kingscote’s own coffee in the on-site wine and artisan food store. For a full meal, visit nearby Gravetye Manor where a set 2-course lunch is £25. 

What to drink The Fat Fumé, a lightly oaked bacchus.

Where to stay Doubles at Gravetye Manor start at £250.

Wine Rides, East Sussex

A brilliant idea from a cycling wine-lover which allows you to turn up at Wadhurst station (with or without your own bike), then cycle until it’s time for a pub lunch, before continuing on a three-day odyssey involving camping and being cooked for at Sedlescombe and Carr Taylor vineyards. winerides.co.uk

What to eat The menu might feature salt-marsh lamb tagine, and apple crumble with custard. 

What to drink Sedlescombe First Release, an off-dry aromatic white, and the UK’s first biodynamic wine.

Where to stay From £240 per person for two nights, all-inclusive. For a bit of luxury, go for a bell tent, £320 per person for two nights. 

Camel Valley Vineyard, Cornwall

Bob Lindo turned his hand to farming when he left the RAF and has built up the beautiful Camel Valley vineyard gradually, over 30 years, with his wife Annie. All the wines are sold in the shop by the glass or half glass (along with little snacks), so you can turn up for a taste even if the Grand Tour tasting is fully booked.

What to eat Salad of squash, mushroom, Helford blue, walnut and rocket, or crab fishcakes with lemon mayo, followed by plum tarte tatin at St Tudy Inn, 15 minutes north by car. 

What to drink The 2012 Cornwall Pinot Noir Rosé Brut.

Where to stay The Cabana, a pretty converted stable down a leafy lane, where you can arrange a Chilean feast, and wines from Camel Valley. B&B from £85 for two. sawdays.co.uk

Three Choirs, Gloucestershire

You can taste, trek, eat and sleep at Three Choirs near Newent, one of the longest established English vineyards. Most visitors book ahead for a guided tour with tastings. 

What to eat Take a seat among lots of local regulars to eat charred wood pigeon breast, carrot kimchi and pickled oriental mushrooms, followed by Herefordshire 28-day-aged porterhouse steak with either bordelaise sauce or wasabi and miso butter. 

What to drink The Siegerrebe 2012, a spicy, fruity dry white.

Where to stay Eight bedrooms in a red-brick block, from £140, have pretty views over the vines, but the nicest accommodation is in the glass-walled, timber-framed lodges with verandas, from £170.

Wyken Vineyards, Suffolk

Only big groups need pre-book for a wander round Wyken. It has been established as a vineyard since 1988, and is energetically tended by Mississippi-born Lady Carlisle, who, as a girl, trained at Chez Panisse and loves the ‘raciness of English wine’. 

What to eat The menu at the estate’s Leaping Hare restaurant/café/shop, housed in a 14th-century barn, offers salmon hot-smoked over vine prunings, and guinea fowl breast, leg bonbon and citrus-baked winter vegetables.

What to drink Wyken Moonshine, a sparkling wine made with pinot noir and auxerrois grapes.

Where to stay Camomile Cottage, an arty Suffolk longhouse where you’ll breakfast in the garden room on full English or eggs benedict with home-baked bread. Doubles, from £99.

Chapel Down, Kent

One of the best-known English vineyards, Chapel Down recently expanded its site to a huge 325 acres of prime Kentish wine country. It’s open all year to visitors, and offers packages and gift experiences with tutored tastings. Alternatively, just go and have a look and pick up a treat from the terrific wine and fine food shop. 

What to eat Homemade duck ham with spiced plums, then Kent-coast cod with cauliflower couscous, at Chapel Down’s smart restaurant, the Swan.

What to drink The 2014 Flint Dry, a blend of bacchus with chardonnay and cool-climate grapes, is a fine alternative to sauvignon blanc.

Where to stay Sissinghurst Farmhouse, home to Chapel Down’s CEO, is also a charming B&B with brass beds and rural views, from £150.

Sharpham Wine and Cheese, Devon

In the same hands for 30 years, Sharpham is a serious producer of more than a dozen wines, as well as unpasteurised cheeses that are sold UK-wide. Visitors to the site, overlooking the River Dart, can embark on a self-directed Trek and Taste, or a Vineyard Ramble with expert guides.

What to eat The Anchorstone at Sharpham serves fresh haddock chowder, Brixham mussels with Thai herbs, and Caesar salad with scallops, pancetta and fresh anchovies.

What to drink The Estate Selection 2014.

Where to stay The Bathing House is a well-appointed holiday cottage within the Sharpham Estate, sleeping two from around £500 for three nights. helpfulholidays.com

Ryedale Vineyards, North Yorkshire

There’s no visitor centre, shop or café at England’s most northerly commercial vineyard, rather a tiny winery set in a listed cowshed. Here Stuart Smith conducts tastings, once his wife Elizabeth has guided guests around the entirely unmechanised site. In the Yorkshire Wolds, it was planted with vines in 2006. ryedalevineyards.co.uk

What to eat At Mount House B&B in Terrington, owner Kathryn might cook venison in the autumn, or seabass, followed by a creamy Italian pud.

What to drink One of Ryedale’s award-winners, such as a bottle of Yorkshire’s Lass, a delicate dry white.

Where to stay In a pretty, homely double or twin at Mount House, £90–£140, including afternoon tea.

Rathfinny Estate, West Sussex

It may be young, but Rathfinny Estate in the South Downs is still one of Britain’s most beautiful wineries. Vines are separated by rows of wild flowers, there are glimpses of the Sussex heritage coast throughout, and visitors can stay overnight in a stylishly converted 1860s barn.

What to eat Get social and eat in the estate’s Flint Barns canteen at long, communal wooden tables. Being the casual kind of place it is, the menu is fixed; expect family favourites such as quality sausage
and mash.

What to drink Although 180 acres in size, Rathfinny has not produced any Sussex sparkling yet – the first batch is due in 2017. Owners Mark and Sarah Driver hope it will rival some of the best champagne.

Where to stay Rooms at the Flint Barns are simple but have expensive bathroom fixtures, quality bedsteads and access to a luxurious communal living room. From £110 for a double. sawdays.co.uk


Photo credits: Paul Winch-Furness, Ian Forsyth

First published August 2015


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