FeaturedFood + Drink

A Regal Toast

There’s no better way to toast the coronation of our new monarch than with a glass of Kentish fizz

by Olivia Riccini 

Kent’s Garden of England status has been intertwined with the British monarchy long before it even coined the acclaimed title. Centuries after the phrase was first uttered, Kent has claimed even further prestige, officially becoming the ‘Wine Garden of England’ too.  

Legend has it that it was the infamous King Henry VIII that originally came up with the symbolic name, although it is likely it was a colloquial nickname long before that. The art of brewing, distilling and winemaking have long run deep in the county’s veins for well over a thousand years, and, today, the roots of these practices are firmly grounded in Kent’s rich and fertile soil. When Julius Caesar landed upon the Kentish shores of Pegwell Bay to establish the Roman era, in his wake his people brought wine making skill and grapes to this fair county, making it highly likely that Kent was the first in which a vineyard was planted.

Rows of green vines at Chapel Down Vineyard in Kent

It is almost certain that the Romans introduced the vine and winemaking to Britain as early as 43 BC when emperor Claudius began the conquest of the British Isles. The Romans loved their wine, and wine drinking was a commonplace activity in Roman villas, houses, and garrisons at the time. Although the Romans tried to grow grapes in England, strong trading links with France and Italy allowed wine to be imported relatively easily too, laying the solid foundations for Britain’s love of vino. 

With plenty of sunny south-facing slopes, a renowned chalky soil and a warm climate, Kent has forever been the best place in the UK to grow vines. With temperatures only rising, as we saw last summer, Kent has become fit to rival and possibly even overtake European vineyards, which some have predicted will become too hot to make good vintages. Referred to as the ‘Napa Valley of the UK’ in a 2022 Bloomberg Pursuits article, Kent’s vineyards and wineries have added thousands of revenue to the county’s tourism industry, with tourists from across the globe travelling to our corner of the UK to witness our glorious vineyards and sample our delectable wines for themselves. 

According to IBISWorld, the market size of the wine production industry in the UK, measured by revenue, is £384.8 million as of 2023, with an expected increase of 9.3% by the end of the year. Rising average maximum temperatures typically result in improved grape yields which in turn can increase production and allow winemakers to make better quality, high-value wines. The average maximum temperature is expected to increase in 2022-23, presenting an opportunity for industry operators. However, as prosperous as this outlook seems, many grape growers are sure to tell you that vines are very much a long-term investment. Plenty of money is required to begin, as is time, in order for crops to mature and make healthy profits. This was an investment that managing director of the UK-based wine company Hatch Mansfield, Patrick McGrath, took in 2015 when he started Domaine Evremond (www.domaineevremond.com). A partnership with Champagne Taittinger, this saw the purchase of a 171-acre apple farm in Selling near Faversham, for £1.5 million and the planting of grapes. This unique collaboration was the first time that a Champagne house bought land in England with the intention of making world-class English sparkling wine.   

Domaine Evremond

Domaine Evremond is just one of the Kentish vineyards that makes up The Wine Garden of England (www.winegardenofengland.co.uk). A designated group of vineyards that work together, The Wine Garden of England aims to bring more visitors to the county while celebrating both our wine industry heritage and future. “We want everyone to discover the magic that attracted these wineries and their founders to establish themselves in the sunniest corner of England,” says brand manager Jo Smith, “a place where the climate, soil and landscape combine to allow them to craft genuinely great wines.”

A keen horticulturist and a lover of home-grown produce it is no surprise that King Charles himself is an advocate for the British agricultural industry and has a keen interest in viticulture, especially the UK’s ever-expanding wine scene. With this in mind there really is no better way to toast the new monarch than with a glass of wine that has come from Kentish soil. insideKENT spoke to The Wine Garden of England members and asked them how they would be celebrating the coronation and which wines they recommend we toast with.

Mereworth Vineyard Pinot Noir Grapes

 

Simpsons Wine Estate

Simpsons’ Wine Estate is delighted to announce that their flagship English Sparkling Wine – Chalklands Classic Cuvée N.V. – is to be poured on British Airways Club World later this year and is their choice of wine for toasting the King with. The iconic airline has just launched English sparkling wine on their Club World wine list for the first time. Four English wine estates have been specially selected for the listing, trailblazing the ‘best of British’ bubbles at 35,000ft. Each English sparkling wine will be available on a rotational basis, changing every three months.

Chalklands Classic Cuvée NV is scheduled to be poured on-board from October until December 2023  – another wonderful milestone in the Simpsons’ journey thus far. This exquisite Simpsons’ sparkling wine previously won gold and “Best in Class” at the Champagne and Sparkling Wine World Championships and celebrated its first Non-Vintage release in 2022. Chalklands Classic Cuvée epitomises English elegance and is pale gold in colour, with delicate notes of crisp green apple. 

Moreover, the team at Simpsons’ will be launching their luxuriously late-disgorged Chalklands Classic Cuvée N.V. magnums ready for their Summer Open House Celebration on Saturday 1 July 2023, with the ticket proceeds from this event going to their chosen local charity, Demelza Hospice Care for Children. Plus, later in the year the estate will be launching a limited-edition Chalklands release in time for Christmas. Plenty to raise a glass to for a superbly sparkling year ahead!

Simpsons Wine Estate

 

Chapel Down 

England’s leading wine producer is marking the coronation with the release of ‘Chapel Down Coronation Edition 2016’ (RRP £65). Just 2,000 bottles have been released and all profits from the sale of the wine will be donated to its charity partner, the Royal British Legion.  

The ‘Chapel Down Coronation Edition’ is from the exceptional 2016 vintage and features special edition packaging, including a union jack flag design imprinted on the front label and the official coronation logo on the neck label. The wine is a classic blend of the finest parcels of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier from the Garden of England, Kent. This complex sparkling wine is aged on lees for five and a half years before its release. Described by its head winemaker, Josh Donaghay-Spire, as displaying “complex aromas of ripe apple, fresh red berries and toasted brioche”, this rich and complex sparkling wine is “perfect for grand celebrations”. 

Chapel Down will also be marking the Coronation at their winery estate by hosting a ‘Coronation Wine Experience’ over the four day bank holiday weekend where guests will enjoy a guided tour of the vineyards and winery, followed by a tutored wine tasting of its award-winning sparkling wines. The producer expects to welcome over 1,000 visitors to the winery over the celebration weekend and £5 from every Coronation Wine Experience (RRP £35) will also be donated to the Royal British Legion. 

 

Westwell Wines

Another family owned vineyard and also a member of the Wine Garden of England is Westwell. Located just beneath the Pilgrims Way on the North Downs, this estate occupies a route used for centuries by Pilgrims travelling to Canterbury and boasts an ideal mix of climate, aspect and soil. There are six classified soil geologies at Westwell and the varieties have been planted with these in mind. Westwell grows five different varieties on their 40-acre estate: Pinot Meunier, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, a little Regent and their signature grape, Ortega. Westwell let insideKENT in on what is new for this season and what they will be toasting King Charles with:

“Our Ortega 2022 is a great wine to sip while enjoying the coronation celebrations. Fermented in stainless steel at slightly lower temperatures yields precise floral aromas of honeysuckle, grapefruit and peach. It pairs perfectly with white meats and shellfish for those having a coronation lunch. Those looking for a red can delight in our Double Pinot 2022 and for rosé lovers, our Naturally Petulant Pink 2022 will suit.”

“Our tours are of course very popular this season. They are always led by the people who grow the grapes and make the wine, and our cellar door is a unique space which overlooks the winery so you can see us at work while tasting the fruits of our labour. In the spring and summer, tours involve a walk through the vineyard – taking in all of our 51,000 vines, as well as a visit to our wildflower meadow, which on a good day enjoys stunning views out to sea.”

 

Gusbourne

With summer in mind, Gusbourne is inviting you to raise a glass to King Charles with their new still English Rosé 2022, featuring a brand-new look and feel. In order to reflect the vibrant, Provence-style wine within, Gusbourne created its new elegant design to allow the wine’s identity and delicate pale pink colour to shine through. Decorated with a pattern of diamond-shaped prisms around the base, the wine is topped with a glass stopper and wrapped in a newly designed label. 

As well as the coronation, Gusbourne English Rosé 2022 is perfect for indulgent lunches with friends in the sun – the ultimate ode to English summertime. This wine is crisp and perfectly balanced with enticing aromas of summer berries and orange zest. The palate is fresh and fruit driven, with juicy strawberry, raspberry and redcurrant notes, followed by delicate hints of blossom and ginger on the finish. Gusbourne English Rosé 2022 is ideal to enjoy on its own or alongside fish and seafood. Gusbourne suggest serving alongside a crab and chilli linguine, seafood platter, or fresh summer salad.

Laura Rhys MS, comments: “Our English Rosé’s versatility makes it truly perfect for any

occasion. The ideal choice to offer as an aperitif to guests or a wonderful complement to lighter dishes, it’s made to be enjoyed – it’s made for the moment.”

 

Biddenden 

Kent’s original vineyard, Biddenden, has been owned and managed by the Barnes family since 1969. Today, the vineyard is run by the second and third generations of the family, drawing on many years of experience in winemaking at Biddenden. 

Dry, rich and creamy, with hints of brioche, Biddenden Vineyard suggest you celebrate the coronation with their award-winning Pinot Reserve 2018 – a standout wine to celebrate with. Made in the traditional method with carefully selected and delicately pressed Pinot Noir grapes, their Pinot Reserve 2018 is well balanced, with a long finish. Pinot Noir is one of the primary varieties used in sparkling wine production, making it a firm favourite for sparkling wine lovers. Biddenden’s Pinot Reserve 2018 is available to purchase in a 75cl bottle for £38, or in a presentation box for £48 – the latter making a lovely gift to mark the occasion, perfect for bringing along to parties and meals.

 

Squerryes 

With views across the vineyard and wider estate, which sits high up on the North Downs, why not visit this vineyard and winery’s restaurant to celebrate the coronation? Dedicated to sustainable dining and seasonal dishes, the chef draws on livestock reared on the estate, produce foraged from its woodlands and fields, as well as handpicked local producers within a 30 mile radius. Complimenting the menu is a wine list authored by Laura Evans, Master of Wine, and sommelier, Vicki Potter. Diners can savour and toast with a glass of award-winning, sparkling Squerryes wines in accompaniment to their meal.

 

Balfour

The View at Balfour Winery is an undoubtedly wonderful place to enjoy great food whilst relaxing in the breathtaking countryside and cheersing to the new monarch. Set within the vineyard of the Hush Heath Estate, you’ll enjoy panoramic views of the vines and ancient oak woodlands combined with a fresh, local seasonal menu. To really get the most out of your visit, opt for a tour experience or a self-guided tasting before your meal.

With over 70 vineyards, Kent is also home to several smaller and boutique vineyards, many of which are open for tours and tastings and will be celebrating the coronation by raising a glass of their best.

Terlingham Vineyard

A coastal family-run vineyard with gorgeous views over the Channel. Terlingham’s tours include tasting a selection of their wines, accompanied by a cheeseboard, bread selection, and tea, coffee and cake. Terlingham now also craft their own small-batch, artisan gin from bacchus grapes, but recommend you celebrate the coronation by indulging in a taste of luxury with their limited edition 2020 Sparkling Rosé. “Crafted from a blend of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Meunier, all grown on our naturally farmed vineyard, this wine is a treat for the senses,” says founder Jackie. “With its rose petal pink hue and delicate notes of strawberry shortcake on the nose, this sparkling wine is perfect for any occasion – including the coronation. On the palate, you’ll taste white cherry and wild strawberry notes, followed by a fresh and tangy finish. This wine has been left on the lees for 24 months and has been riddled, corked and labelled by hand with love, ensuring a truly exceptional experience.”

 

Meophams

With a selection of inaugural sparkling wines released last year, Meopham Valley Vineyard has a gorgeous selection of bottles to choose from. A family run boutique vineyard located in the North Downs and currently growing nine grape varieties, Meophams has the picturesque Happy Valley as its scenic backdrop. The winemaking team is led by Nick Lane, who has an abundance of experience having been a winemaker at Cloudy Bay, Veuve Clicquot, Moët & Chandon and Dom Pérignon. All of Meophams’ wines are vegan friendly and passed PDO/PGI Certification, thus they are able to use the term ‘English Quality Sparkling Wine’. The collection includes the Signature Brut, Premiere Brut and Phoenix Brut Rosé.

A date for your diary – English Wine Week, 18-26 June

Almost all of Kent’s vineyards and wineries will be taking part in English Wine Week, a national campaign, designed to raise awareness of English wine across the country. Our vineyards will be opening their doors to welcome visitors and hosting a plethora of events and special tours, tastings, offers and more to celebrate English Wine and the industry. With the sun destined to shine over our sprawling vineyards that will be green and lucious at this time of year, there’s no better place to enjoy the warm weather with a cool, crisp glass of Kentish wine in hand.

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