THE BEST VINEYARDS TO VISIT NEAR LONDON
The English wine industry is going from strength to strength, with both quality and production levels steadily increasing over the last few years. More and more English bottles are appearing on restaurant menus too meaning that there’s plenty of opportunities to try what’s out there. But while having the odd glass with dinner is all well and good, visiting the vineyards themselves is a much more fun way of doing it. Luckily there are now loads you can visit within easy reach of London, boasting beautiful scenery, tasting rooms, and restaurants. Read on for our pick of the best vineyards near London… who needs Provence when you’ve got Kent!
Our favourite UK vineyard has to be Tillingham, one of the only natural / low-intervention winemakers in the UK. The wines are absolutely banging (get hold of their pet nat if you can) and it has a beautiful site overlooking a sloping hill of vines, just 10 minutes outside Rye. It’s great for a day visit to try some wines but you can really make a trip of it by staying over in one of the new hotel rooms, which opened in late 2019. There’s also a restaurant and bar with fab views. All in all, Tillingham is definitely the place to go if you’re just going to visit one.
How to get there: Train from St Pancras to Rye (via Ashford), then cab
Total journey time: 1hr 30 minutes
Simpson’s Wine Estate, Kent
Located in the beautiful North Downs in Kent is the Simpson’s Wine Estate. Founded by Charles and Ruth Simpson, who made rose in the Languedoc region of France for 16 years, Simpson’s makes one of England’s most acclaimed still wines, the Gravel Castle Chardonnay. Then there’s the light Provence style rose and the sparkling Canterbury rose among many others. Regular three hour tours take place on Saturdays and include a walk around the estate learning about the planting and harvesting of the vines, plus a visit to the state of the art winery and of course the tasting room where you can sample the latest bottles.
How to get there: Train from St Pancras to Canterbury West, then a taxi
Total journey time: 1hr and 20 mins
Chapel Down, Kent
One of Kent’s biggest vineyards, Chapel Down also produce beers and now gin too (check out its new gin works in Kings Cross before getting the train to Kent). Two hour tours are £17.50 and run throughout the year, taking in a vineyard visit and tutored tasting. You can even make a day of it with lunch at the onsite Swan restaurant which has a Bib Gourmand, offering modern British dishes and views out over the vineyards.
How to get there: Train from St Pancras to Ashford International; train to Rye, then a taxi
Total journey time: 1hr and 49 mins
Founded in 1972, Bolney is one of the biggest names in English wine. It’s an absolute stunner too, with five vineyards set amongst the South Downs in Sussex, just 14 miles from the coast. They offer a big variety of tours, from quick 45 minute walks to longer tastings, all the way up to Grand Gourmet and Afternoon Tea packages which include lunch or a fancy tea as well as plenty of wine. Bolney is definitely one of the best vineyards near London and the perfect place to begin your English wine adventure.
How to get there: Train from London Victoria to Hayward’s Heath, then a taxi
Total journey time: 1hr and 5 mins
Ridgeview is a family-owned vineyard in East Sussex. Founded in 1995, Ridgeview was one of the first wineries to specialise in English Sparkling Wine, which saw it be crowned IWSC Winemaker Of The Year in 2018. Situated in Sussex on the South Downs of England, the winery is run by the second generation of the Roberts family, and they offer tastings and tours all year round. Regular tours cost £20 per person and include a visit to the vineyards with the winemakers and the all important sampling of the wines back in the tasting room, which overlooks the beautiful South Downs.
How to get there: Train from London Victoria to Burgess Hill, then taxi
Total journey time: 1hr 5 mins
One of the smaller English wine producers, Raimes produce limited edition champagne-style sparkling wines from 10 acres of beautiful vineyards in Hampshire. They do tours too and the small size means that these have a much more boutique intimate feel although the variety is not as great as some others on this list and you will have to book in advance to get the available dates between May and September.
How to get there: Train from London Waterloo to Winchester, then a taxi
Total journey time: 1hr and 15 mins
Words: Joel Porter