Kent: The new winemaker’s paradise
Where in the world are the top winemakers to be found? Will you stumble across them in the gorgeous rolling vineyards of France? Perhaps taking care of the grapes growing in Italy? Or is the sun of California’s Napa Valley the first thing that comes to mind?
If that’s the case, it’s time to think again. English wine is getting better every season, and the winemakers creating stunning wines in Kent are amongst the best of all. And we do mean English wine. British wine is something entirely different – the grapes made to use this particular variety can actually come from anywhere in the world, and as long as the wine making process takes place in Britain, the name can stick. English wine, on the other hand, is born and bred here – home grown grapes from home sown vines.
Despite the Romans having taken over Kent by AD250, and despite the fact that they drank (and made) copious amounts of wine, by the time they left our shores in the 5th century, there was no real evidence left behind that winemaking had ever happened. Tools, yes. Villas, yes. Bones, yes. But vines and wine? Not a jot. Not a sip.
And it wasn’t until 1969 that anything happened to change our idea that winemaking in England simply wasn’t possible. With our weather? With our soil? Wine? It had to be a joke… And yet 1969 is the year in which the very first vineyard was planted in our county. Planted by the Barnes family, and still producing excellent quality grapes today, Biddenden Vineyards is now one of many Kentish vineyards that are the envy of the world.
In total, Kent has around 350 acres of wine producing vineyards, and the wine it does produce has won award after award. So where are these fine wine producing vines? You may be surprised.
Biddenden Vineyards, Biddenden
Biddenden has 23 acres of vineyards and grows 11 different varieties of grapes, enabling it to produce excellent white, rose, and sparkling wines.
Hush Heath Winery, Staplehurst
Famous for producing England’s ‘most exclusive pink fizz’ (the Balfour Brut Rosé), Hush Heath Winery has plenty more available as well, including cider.
Chapel Down Winery, Tenterden
Since it began in 1977, Chapel Down has become the largest UK producer of wine – and the winery has a capacity of one million litres!
Harbourne Vineyard, Wittersham
Harbourne Vineyard produces a variety of wines from grapes such as Ortega, Regner, Muller Thurgau, Seyval Blanc and Pinot Meunier.
Terlingham Vineyard & Winery, Folkestone
This vineyard produces a variety of white, rosé, and red wines with delicate floral bouquets and hints of elderflower, lavender, eucalyptus and litchi all present.
The Mount Vineyard, Shoreham
This ideally situated vineyard produces award-winning still and sparkling wines. Why not arrange a tasting and find out more?
Gusbourne Estate, Appledore
Award-winning wine makers, Gusbourne is all about perfection. Sparkling, white, red, and rosé are all produced here.
West Fisher Winery, Chelsham
Offering more than wine, here you can find vodka liqueurs and cider too, as well as wine tasting events.
Marden Organic (Herbert Hall Wines Ltd), Marden
Handmade wines in the ‘brut’ style, some of which is in fermented in old oak barrels.
Woodchurch Wine, Woodchurch
A combination of the perfect location and a wealth of knowledge make Woodchurch Wine Estate one to watch.
East Sutton Vine Garden, Maidstone
Wine made from a variety of different grapes, as well as cider. Tours as available upon request.
Simpsons Wine Estate, Barham
Owners Ruth and Charles Simpson learned all they could about wine in France and brought that knowledge back to Kent. The wine produced here includes Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier.
Bardingley Vineyard, Maidstone
It’s rosé, rosé, rosé all the way at Bardingley Vineyard. Focusing predominantly on just one type of wine means that the quality can be increased, and this theory does seem to have worked at Bardingley.
Barnsole Vineyard, Staple
Barnsole Vineyard is situated on fertile land that has been farmed for many centuries, and that makes it the perfect place to produce excellent sparkling and still wines to both the public and trade.
Kent Vineyard, Colliers Green
The owners of Kent Vineyard took over the vines in 2009 and set about immediately resurrecting the vines and the land in order to make stunning wine. It worked, and after just a few years the first wine was made in 2013. The owners offer ‘Cheery Day Wine Events’ so you can find out more about what they do and how they do it.
Sandhurst Vineyard, Cranbrook
Although Sandhurst Vineyards no longer produce their own wines, they do grow exceptional quality grapes and sell those to other wine producers. And if you want to get away from it all, there is a wonderful B&B on the vineyard site.