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Wine Tourism: Best Vineyards in England


Category: Wine Tourism

Where are the best vineyards in England?




In Short:
Vineyards in England have seen a huge rise in interest: particularly those close to London such as Nyetimer, Chapel Down and Balfour.

The past 20 years has seen a permanent shift in how English wine is both made and enjoyed. A former cult favourite has evolved into an internationally acclaimed selection, able to compete with the best of the new and old world alike. Vineyards in England have seen a huge rise in interest over the past 18 months. Thanks to lockdown, Brexit and ecological awareness, more and more people want to engage with local produce - they also want to explore vineyards within easy reach of their homes.

The good news is that there has never been a better time to drink English wine. As curiosity has been replaced by confidence, English winemakers are using the most innovative techniques and attracting talent from all over the globe. Homegrown sparkling wine right now is arguably at its historical best: select vintages are maturing into a real contender against Champagne.

You can take your pick of top producers from Kent, Sussex, Surrey and beyond. Here are our favourites:

 






Nyetimber

Nestled in the South Downs, Nyetimber had one fundamental advantage against other international producers - it shares the same chalky soil as champagne. It has also used some traditional techniques to ensure a higher degree of control and quality - strictly estate-grown grapes, traditionally aged, planted on greensand and chalk. Founded in 1988, it is comparatively a newcomer to the wine world despite its history (the location is mentioned in the Doomsday book). They have focused on three key grapes - Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier - to create complex vivid results. Originally owned by former pop writer Andy Hill and his wife Nichola (Hill wrote for pop royalty including Diana Ross, Cher and Celine Dion), Nyetimber is now under the ownership of Dutch-born businessman Eric Heerema.
Under Heerema’s expert eye, Nyetimber has gone from strength to strength. The beautifully designed bottles have also started appearing at some of the country’s best restaurants and wine bars. Nyetimber reviews have also been unparalleled - from fiercely contested Which? sparkling tests to an unexpected triumph in the blind tasting of Bollicine del Mondo competition in Verona, where in 2010 it beat strong competition from the likes of Bollinger and Louis Roederer to be named Champion of Worldwide Sparking Wines.  

Visiting Nyetimber in person will see you experience some stunning views of the South Downs, as well tasting some of their distinctive bottles in an ancient barn - including Nyetimber Cuvee Cherie NV, a classic small-batch off-dry estate-grown Chardonnay. The ageing period gives it a formidable persistence of flavour with notes of  pastry and  brioche.  It is best paired with an aperitif or grilled fish.


Chapel Down
 
English wine lovers shouldn’t restrict themselves only to a single vineyard. Chapel Down is one of the leading winegrowers in the whole of the UK. Based in Kent in the South East, from 25 acres of vineyards it has an impressive range including reds, whites, sparkling, spirits and even beers. A multiple award winner, it has spent the past two decades challenging expectations. The results have been spectacular with international tastemakers choosing to stock Chapel Down - including Gordon Ramsay, London’s Royal Opera House and the Barbican. 

The first English wine to be served at Ascot and the official sparkling of the Oxford and Cambridge boat race, Chapel Down manages the difficult balancing act of remaining true to its British roots while also offering enough complexity and depth of flavour to entice the most well-travelled. The Chapel Down Brut Non-Vintage, based on Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, uses traditional techniques. But Chapel Down have devised something vivacious and enticing - it pairs perfectly with classic English favourites like fish and chips. Visiting Chapel Down in person is a tremendous experience: tutored tastings, a gourmet dinner at the Swan and the brilliantly titled quiz “Whose Wine Is It Anyway?”








Balfour

A short drive from Chapel Down, at the Hush Heath estate in Kent, is another extraordinary British winery - Balfour. Family winemakers Owen Elias, Fergus Elias and Leslee Barbour-Lynn have been selling their beautiful English sparkling wine since 2002 - and they’re still experimenting and finessing more than ever before. Originally they were content to be a small winery producing 10,000 bottles a year but following their success at the 2008 IWC Awards, their ambitions have grown considerably. 
 
Their Balfour 1503 Brut is their flagship, produced of Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier and Chardonnay. Expect notes of thyme and apple - it works as a wonderful conversation starter and as such makes the perfect aperitif. No wonder it is served in British Airways’ First Class and was the official English wine of the London 2012 Olympics. Visiting the estate in Kent is a genuine joy to see where the hand-picked wines are selected - as well as the surrounding ancient oak woodlands that help create such favourable conditions (the deep Wealden clay through to Greensand). 
 
Balfour specialise in elegant, fresh and precise wines, well-balanced, capable of delivering time after time - with a surprisingly lengthy mouth-watering finish. Having an on-site winery means that the quality control is second to none and that particular vintages can be aged more accurately. You can visit the spectacular facilities, complete with tasting room, and make sure you call in to the nearby Goudhurst Inn, a perfectly placed pub.



Selbourne

If you’ve enjoyed the big names of English wine, why not discover Majestic’s very own creation? A customer favourite since arriving on our shelves in 2019, the fine-bubbled favourite Selborne Classic Cuvee Brut comes directly from Hampshire vineyards which produce some of the world’s top vintages.
It offers an easy-drinking combination of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. It takes its name from the home village of Gilbert White, the pioneering ecologist whose defining work has been republished more than 300 times since it first appeared and was feted by everyone from Virginia Woolf and Charles Darwin.

A homegrown classic, tasting like a British orchard at its ripest, it has a luxurious soft richness of pastry  and notes of citrus, Granny Smiths and dried strawberry. Selborne Classic Cuvee Brut is a wine that goes brilliantly with post-lockdown garden parties, overcast summer days and the promise of better days ahead.










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