WineTours.jpg

The best wine tours within two hours of London

N

o Eurotunnel slots? No problem. In fact, why would you even want to traipse across the pond to Provence or Champagne when there’s equally wonderful, if not even higher quality, wine being produced on the doorstep in its barrel-load? Just jump on the train from London and you can be at one of dozens of Britain’s top vineyards in under two hours and back by dinner-time. No need to bicker over the driving or fuss around with departure lounge queues.

In case you missed all the Instagrams of your pals boozy Sussex day trips, vineyards across the south of England are having a moment. UK winegrowing has expanded by nearly 400 per cent since 2004, British wine estates have more than doubled in size in the last eight years and this year is set to produce the best harvest yet, if predictions for further heatwaves are anything to go by. Winemakers at Chapel Down in Kent say grapes are already 10 days ahead of the average season, meaning riper wines, and insiders are already calling the south of England the future Napa Valley of the UK thanks to its chalky soil and increasingly warm, dry climate conditions.

So where to go? Kent and east Sussex are probably the top spots if you want to make a tour of it (Kent scored 60 medals at this year’s British wine “BAFTAs” last month), but new plonk-producing counties are popping up by the second. Hampshire, west Sussex and Devon are now popular destinations for a day sipping local varieties and London even has its own commercial vineyard in EN2.

From three-course wine-paired lunches in the rolling east Sussex hills to the hot London vineyard popular with the fashion set, these are the top wine tours within two hours of the capital.

For award-winning fizz: Gusbourne, Kent

Gusbourne

Fizz fans, add this to your bucket list. You’ll struggle to find a English sparkling wine fanatic who doesn’t list Gusbourne among their top three labels. The accolades speak for themselves: Gusbourne is the only UK vineyard to have won the IWSC English Wine Producer of the Year three times; it took the trophy for Best Chardonnay and Top Still Wine at this year’s wine “BAFTAs”, the WineGB Awards; plus it won the Pinot Noir and Chardonnay Trophy categories for the second year running. Oh, and it’s one of just 14 of the UK’s 500 commercial vineyards to be certified under the Sustainable Wines of Great Britain Scheme.

Sign up for the £90 Estate Tour: an educational (and boozy) walk around the vineyard rounded off with a silver-service, three-course lunch paired with exclusive, limited edition and rare-release wines. Tours are intimate, with a maximum of 16 per group, and the feel is homegrown despite Gusbourne’s size and success. Staff haven’t used herbicides for five years, instead relying on nearby meadows, liquid seaweed and chickens’ “natural fertiliser” for nutrients.

Time from London: 60 minutes (the fast train from St Pancras to Ashford is just 40 minutes, then it’s a 20-minute taxi).

USP: Big name collabs. Legendary fashion designer Sir Paul Smith has hosted events here; Tom Kerridge’s two-Michelin-starred Buckinghamshire restaurant, The Hand and Flowers, is among the top British restaurants stocking Gusbourne wine; and Michelin-starred chef Tom Sellers is lined up for a pop-up dinner next month.

What to Instagram: The view from the decking mid-way through your tour.

Where to stay: The Woolpack Inn, a 16th century pub with five charming ensuite rooms, is just a five-minute drive away and sits opposite a church, amidst fields of grazing sheep.

For old English charm: Hambledon vineyard, Hampshire

Hambledon Vineyard

You might recognise Hambledon from the wine lists at Noble Rot and Brigadiers. The secret to its award-winning sparkling wine? Newhaven Chalk soil, which was formed on the seabed of Paris some 65 million years ago and is the same chalk as Champagne’s famous Côtes des Blancs region, where the grapes for some of the world’s finest bottles of bubbly are grown. Paired with the vineyard’s proximity to the sea and protection from the Isle of Wight, it’s a winning formula for some of the finest English fizz on the market.

The basic tour costs just £22.50, including a tasting and a peek inside the cellars, and there’s a pop-up marquee restaurant during summer. Treat yourself to a take-home discovery pack, which includes a bottle of the Classic Cuvée NV, the Rosé and the Première Cuvée.

Time from London: 75 minutes (Petersfield is an hour on the train from Waterloo, then it’s a 15-minute taxi).

USP: Hambledon is England’s oldest commercial vineyard. It was established in 1952 in a small Hampshire village, which also happens to be the birthplace of cricket.

What to Instagram: Hambledon’s boozy afternoon tea, set against the backdrop of the South Downs National Park.

Where to stay: Langrish House Hotel, a charming old country manor with 11 B&B rooms, is just a 15-minute drive away and sits just off the South Downs Way if you fancy hiking off the hangover the next day.

For biodynamic wine: Tillingham, east Sussex

Matt The List

If Shoreditch was a wine estate, it would probably look something like Tillingham: hipster staff, weekly yoga classes in the grounds, wood-fired sourdough pizzas in a low-lit converted barn. In fact, choose a sunny Saturday and you’ll probably bump into half of Shoreditch House here and you might even spot A-listers from Lily Cole to Paloma Faith sipping a glass of orange wine on the terrace. Tours and tastings start at £35 and last around 90 minutes, including a tour of the winery and vineyard and a glass of four of Tillingham’s most iconic wines.

Time from London: 80 minutes (Rye is a 70-minute train from London, then it’s a 10-minute taxi).

USP: Biodynamic winemaking and sustainable farming are Tillingham’s speciality – the estate recently won a Michelin Green Star for sustainable gastronomy and you’ll learn all about it on the tour – but not in a snooty way. Much like its guests, the estate’s guides are mostly young, hip twenty and thirty-somethings. They might not be in uniform but they know their stuff and nail that tricky balance of informative yet accessible and down-to-earth, even for novices.

What to Instagram: Tillingham’s on-site Victorian oast house against the backdrop of luscious green fields.

Where to stay: Book into one of Tillingham’s 11 converted hop barn rooms or on-site bell tents. The Lookout is a charming boutique hotel in the centre of medieval Rye if you’d rather stay in the thick of things, with prices from £97 a night on Booking.com and bright, airy rooms overlooking the town’s cobbled streets and harbour nature reserve.

For wine grown within the M25: Forty Hall estate, Enfield

Pablo Antoli

Yes, you read that right. You can now watch some of Britain’s best winegrowers at work at the end of the Victoria Line (OK, plus a 30 minute taxi or a hop on the overground). Forty Hall might sit on the outskirts of London, but it’s technically still in the capital, and beloved by the fashion set: a 170-acre organic farm, 10-acre community vineyard and charming Grade-I listed Jacobean manor house hidden away in the leafy Enfield suburbs.

Wine tasting sessions run on the second Sunday of each month from April to October, with hour-long tours led by one of the estate’s team of volunteers as part of its mental health and wellbeing ‘ecotherapy’ projects. You’ll sample Forty Hall’s 2020 vintage still wine and 2018 Sparkling London Brut at the end.

Time from London: None (London bus routes 191 or W10 stop within a 10-minute walk or it’s a 20-minute walk from Turkey Street overground station).

USP: Forty Hall is London’s only commercial-scale vineyard. You don’t even have to leave the M25.

What to Instagram: Forty Hall’s farmers’ market, always held on the same day as its wine tours. The next one takes place on August 14.

Where to stay: Birch, a stately Hertfordshire mansion turned hip new members’ club and hotel, is just a nine-minute taxi away. Pottery, yoga and sourdough starter classes are among the activitieson tap, or simply soothe your hangover in a hammock chair in the leafy grounds.

For on-site glamping: Oastbrook Estate Vineyard, east Sussex

Energetic owners Nick and America might have grown Oastbrook into an award-winning business, but they still like to get their hands dirty. Together they lead a series of on-site summer events from opera nights by the pool to 12-person fine wine and dining evenings, and America still runs all the tours herself.

The two-hour walkaround costs £30 a head and includes a tour of the estate, plus a wine tasting accompanied by a food platter.

Time from London: 80 minutes (Tonbridge is a 50-minute train from Waterloo, then it’s a 30-minute taxi).

USP: Family-friendliness. Nick and America’s daughter Gabby runs a children’s tour for eight to 16-year-olds for just £5 a head.

What to Instagram: A walkaround reel of your luxury bell-tent, from the campfire outside to the wine rack and cheese platter at the end of the king-size bed.

Where to stay: Choose from one of Oastbrook’s eight boutique two-person glamping tents, four-person Avalon Waterside Lodge or on-site Hobbit House inspired by Lord of the Rings.

For wine worthy of world leaders: Nyetimber, west Sussex

Nyetimber

Don’t take our word for it; take that of the sommeliers at the Savoy, Ascot and Wimbledon, who’ve all put Nyetimber front and centre of their English sparkling wine lists in recent years. The leading UK fizz label is an official partner of the British Embassy in Paris, has been served to President Obama at 10 Downing Street and its Cuvée Chérie was served at last year’s G7 Summit in Cornwall. Can’t be too shabby then.

Nyetimber’s sprawling vineyard estate includes 865 acres across West Sussex, Hampshire and Kent, but the best place to sample a glass is at its West Chiltington estate overlooking the South Downs in Sussex. The main 16th century manor house (where owners Eric and Hannah Heerema live and were married) was mentioned in the Doomsday Book – Henry VIII is among famous guests – and is worth a visit, but you do have to book in advance as open days are limited (and sell-out quickly, this summer’s remaining open day is already booked up).

Time from London: 80 minutes (70 minutes from Clapham Junction to Pulborough, then it’s a 10-minute taxi).

USP: Insta-points. Nyetimber is reportedly the most Instagrammed vineyard in the UK, with more than 20,000 hashtags.

What to Instagram: Nyetimber’s central fountain, set within its perfectly manicured gardens (the Nyetimber branded umbrellas are a nice touch on a rainy day).

Where to stay: The Pig’s latest outpost, a relaxed Regency haven in the heart of the South Downs is just a 25-minute drive away. Artelium’s vineyard is next door if you want to make a tour of it, and the hotel has its own vineyard, too, due to produce its first harvest next summer.

For foodies looking further afield: Lympstone Manor, Devon

Lympstone Manor

“Most of the great vineyards of Europe are all located near rivers, the Médoc châteaux of Bordeaux on the Gironde, wine estates along the Rhône, Loire, and Rhine rivers, the great port vineyards of the Douro. So why not the Exe estuary?”. This was the question asked by renowned chef Michael Caines MBE when he decided to start producing high-quality English sparkling wine at his luxury country house hotel and Michelin-starred fine dining restaurant, Lympstone Manor, in the heart of Devon.

Caines planted 17,500 vines there in May 2018 and the first harvest is set to take place this autumn. His team run wine tours each Wednesday between May and September (tours cost £140 per person and include a four-course lunch), with homegrown wine set to be available to order in the restaurant and pool house bar overlooking the Exe estuary. Its premium sparkling wine, Lympstone Manor Cuvée, should be ready for release in 2023.

Time from London: OK, so this one’s technically more than two hours outside London but only just. The fast train from Paddington to Exeter takes just over two hours then it’s a 25-minute taxi at the other end.

USP: A vineyard with a sea view. The five-star Georgian manor features beautiful southwest-facing grounds (including a luxe new heated swimming pool) overlooking the River Exe.

What to Instagram: The view over the Exe Estuary from Lympstone’s vineyard.

Where to stay: One of Lympstone Manor’s 21 guestrooms and suites, or one of its deluxe shepherd’s huts nestled in the trees at the bottomof the hill, each with their own firepit and outdoor tub.


Source link

Tags: No tags

Add a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *