Our amazing county of Kent is known as the Garden of England, and for good reason. Here you can find a bountiful amount of produce from our enviable orchards, our fertile farmyards, our wonderful woodland and even some of the very best vineyards in the country.
Wine from Kent is up there with the best of them, winning awards and gaining fans seemingly every day. English wine (that is, wine made in the UK from grapes grown in England, as opposed to British wine which is wine made in the UK with grapes imported from elsewhere) is taking the vinification world by storm and far from being the butt of the joke as it once was, it is now revered the world over.
And if you’re wondering just where this fabulous wine can be found, you might be surprised at the number of winemakers and vineyards Kent is home to.
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 wine making 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 wine making 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. It was planted by the Barnes family, and it is still producing excellent quality grapes today. You may even have tasted the final product – that vineyard was Biddenden, and four decades on it 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.
Gusbourne Estate // www.gusbourne.com // 01233 758666
Kenardington Road, Appledore TN26 2BE
A deep respect for nature, an uncompromising quest for quality and a fastidious approach to detail is at the heart of everything Gusbourne does – from the way they grow their grapes to the way they age their wines. All of the grapes used in Gusbourne wines are sourced solely from their own vineyards. They create exclusively vintage sparkling wines of distinction; wines that reflect the unique conditions of each growing season.
The grapes from each vineyard parcel are always hand-picked and whole bunches gently pressed to extract only the very best juice. Once bottled, the wines are stacked by hand in the cellar before beginning a period of prolonged lees ageing.
Gusbourne’s tasting room, The Nest, is open seven days a week, all year round. Book one of the hosted tours for a relaxing afternoon learning about just what it takes to make world-class English Sparkling Wine.
There are several different types of tours available to enjoy yourself or to gift to a friend. If you only have a limited amount of time to spare, the Vineyard Tour is a perfect introduction to the vineyards and wines, ending with a tutored wine tasting in the luxurious tasting room.
For those looking for the ideal way to spend an afternoon unwinding in the countryside with a glass in hand, the Estate Tour is the one for you. The day begins with welcome drinks and nibbles, before enjoying a full tour of the estate. After learning about the processes involved in making Gusbourne’s exquisite wines, you will have a tutored tasting that gives you exclusive access to some special wines that do not feature in the standard tour – rare releases, older vintages and limited editions. Finally, a seasonal three-course lunch prepared with locally sourced ingredients is served to complement the eight wines you will be drinking.
If you would rather explore at your own pace, you might prefer Gusbourne’s self-guided walking tour. No booking is required – simply arrive, take a map and venture out. Then, once you are finished, head back to The Nest to enjoy a glass of wine overlooking the vineyards.
Gusbourne is the only three-time winner of the IWSC English Wine Producer of the Year. Visit them in Appledore, Kent to explore the vineyards, meet the people behind Gusbourne and enjoy some of their award-winning English Sparkling Wines.
Biddenden Vineyards // www.biddendenvineyards.com // 01580 291726
Gribble Bridge Lane, Biddenden TN27 8DF
As Kent’s original commercial vineyard, Biddenden has a lot to live up to, but it seems to be doing magnificently well, and is even better today than it was back in 1969 when it all began. Biddenden is a family run concern, and the second and third generations of the Barnes family are still there, creating its award-winning drinks. Biddenden has 23 acres of vineyards and grows 11 different varieties of grapes, enabling it to produce excellent white, rose, and sparkling wines. In addition to wine, there are juices and ciders made here too.
Hush Heath Winery // www.hushheath.com // 01622 832794
Five Oak Lane, Staplehurst TN12 0HT
The Hush Heath Estate is a large one, comprising of a whopping 400 acres. That includes vineyards, apple orchards and even some ancient woodland. All of this adds to the taste of the drinks that are produced here, even the woodland which is full of gorgeous flora and fauna has a hand in the taste of the wine at Hush Heath thanks to cross pollination. Everything that Hush Heath produces starts off life in those 400 acres, ensuring a complete provenance that can be linked right back to the Staplehurst ground. Hush Heath started as a hobby for owner Richard Balfour-Lynn, but it soon outgrew this title and is now an impressive wine and cider business. It is famous for producing England’s ‘most exclusive pink fizz’ (the Balfour Brut Rosé) as well, and Hush Heath Winery has plenty more available as well, including cider.
Chapel Down Winery // www.chapeldown.com // 01580 763033
Small Hythe, Tenterden TN30 7NG
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! Some of those litres go to provide restaurants run by Jamie Oliver and Gordon Ramsay, and Chapel Down wine can also be found at The Royal Opera House, Turner Contemporary, The Donmar Warehouse, The Barbican and even 10 Downing Street. There are a number of excellent different wines available from Chapel Down.
Squerryes Court Vineyard // www.squerryes.co.uk // 01959 562345
The Squerryes Estate, Beggars Lane, Westerham TN16 1QP
The Squerryes Estate is in a beautiful area of the Kent Downs, and takes up 2,500 impressive acres in this area of outstanding natural beauty. Not all of this land is used for grape growing; some of it is home to a 200 strong dairy herd, and more is used to produce wheat, malting barley and oilseed rape. The vineyard consists of 35 acres. It was planted back in 2006 and is now producing the most exquisite sparkling wine that has won awards.
Meopham Valley Vineyard // www.meophams.co.uk // 01474 325148
Whether you choose sparkling, white, rose, or a mixed case of wine, you know you will be getting quality from Meopham Valley Vineyard. Meopham Valley Vineyard was first started by husband and wife team David and Pauline Grey in 1991, with plenty of advice from expert grape grower Gillian Peakes. It took a little while to find the best place to start the vineyard, but the terroir of north Kent proved a winner, and now this two hectare estate is producing some magnificent results. The wine made here comes from seven different grape varieties including chardonnay, pinot gris, triomphe and madeleine.
Terlingham Vineyard & Winery // www.terlinghamvineyard.co.uk // 01303 892452
Terlingham Lane, Hawkinge CT18 7AE
Each different Terlingham wine has its own unique personality, and the growing methods are different too – the owners are keen to use natural farming methods to produce their wonderful grapes, and this is one of the things that makes Terlingham stand out. The wine is made using traditional methods, and the winemakers themselves truly care about what they do. This is why the White Cliffs and Saxon Shore wines that are made here are award-winning. What makes Terlingham’s wine even more special is that it is ‘natural wine’. This means there are no added preservatives or nasties, everything is handmade, even the wildflowers are allowed to grow as they want within the vineyard, adding to the taste of the grapes.
The Mount Vineyard // www.themountvineyard.co.uk // 01959 524008
The Mount, Church Street, Shoreham TN14 7SD
This ideally situated vineyard produces award winning still and sparkling wines. The Mount has won awards for its wine, and it’s no surprise when you realise just how much work has gone into making them. The Romans used to grow grapes in this area, and the methods haven’t changed very much in the past 2,000 years. Probably the best known wine made at The Mount Vineyard is the dry sparkling rose which is created using pinot noir, seyval and phoenix grapes using traditional methods.
Barnsole Vineyard // www.barnsole.co.uk // 07772 300 511
Fleming Road, Staple, Canterbury CT3 1LG
Barnsole Vineyard is situated on fertile land that has been farmed for many centuries (the loam over chalk soil regularly offers-up relics such as Napoleonic buttons, musket balls and the odd clay pipe that was discarded by a farm hand, long, long ago) and that makes it the perfect place to produce excellent sparkling and still wines to both the public and trade. Barnsole’s situation delivers the perfect geology and climate to produce the high quality grapes that make our award winning English wines.
Harbourne Vineyard // www.harbournevineyard.co.uk // 01797 270420
Wittersham, Tenterden TN30 7NP
Harbourne Vineyard produces a variety of wines from grapes such as Ortega, Regner, Muller Thurgau, Seyval Blanc and Pinot Meunier. These wines are suitable for vegetarians and vegans. Everything is grown, made and even bottled at the vineyard, making this a definite all in one operation. The vineyard at Harbourne was originally planted in 1979, and traditional methods are still very much in use. Thanks to the elevation of the land, frost is hardly ever a problem meaning that a good crop of grapes is produced each year. And anything that is left over in the winemaking process, such as skins and pips, is used as fertiliser, so nothing is ever wasted.
Woodchurch Wine // www.woodchurchwine.co.uk // 07796 693935
Susan’s Hill, Woodchurch TN26 3RE
A combination of the perfect location and a wealth of knowledge make Woodchurch Wine Estate one to watch. Woodchurch is a family business that started in 2009, and it is now an award winning vineyard producing the Woodchurch Classic Cuvee 2013, Woodchurch Rose 2014 and Woodchurch Blanc de Blancs 2013. The first wines were released in 2015, and each year will have completely different characteristics, which makes Woodchurch an interesting prospect all round.
Herbert Hall Wines // www.herberthall.co.uk // 07956 163519
Poultry Farm, Plain Road, Marden TN12 9LS
It is sparkling wine that is created for Herbert Hall Wines at Marden Organic Vineyard, and, as the vineyard’s name suggests, the grapes are grown organically. That means that wine you get at the end of the traditional process will be organic too – and its provenance is completely traceable. These handmade wines are made in the ‘brut’ style, and some of it is in fermented in old oak barrels. This adds a very special flavour and a roundness to the wine which has been described as ‘masterful’ by Tom Stevenson, author of Sotheby’s Wine Encyclopaedia.
Chartham Vineyard // www.charthamvineyard.co.uk // 01233 813709
Burnt House Farm, Station Road, Chartham, Canterbury CT4 7HU
Traditional farming methods and an eco-friendly approach is what goes into making the wines at one of Kent’s newest vineyards, Chartham. Owned by Doctor Roz Waller and her husband, Richard Goodenough, and managed by their son, Andy, this vineyard is ready and raring to go. The wines are sold directly from the farm, and although they are not made on site at the moment, that is the plan for the future. A lovely pinot noir, a Bacchus, a pinot gris and of course an exceptional blanc de blancs are all available from the onsite farm shop.
West Fisher Winery // www.westfisher.co.uk // 01959 575893
The Old Stables, Skid Hill Farm, Skid Hill Lane, Chelsham CR6 9PP
Offering more than wine, here you can find vodka liqueurs and cider too, as well as wine tasting events.
Westwell Wine Estates // www.westwellwines.com // 01233 690471
Westwell Lane, Charing TN27 0BW
Located just below the Pilgrims Way, with conditions similar to that in Champagne, Westwell Wines produces wonderful Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Meunier. All the grapes are hand-picked to enable selection during harvest as well as allowing for gentle pressing within a special press. The juices are handled minimally, either by gravity or using gentle pumps. A small proportion of the sparkling base wines are fermented and aged in 2 to 3 year old Burgundian barrels, while the Ortega Barrel Ferment is all fermented and aged in barrel.
Taking a Short Break in the Wine Garden of England
Heading to a vineyard, taking a tour and perhaps indulging in a few drinks sounds like the ideal day. But what if you’re visiting from further afield, or perhaps wish to make a weekend of it? Well, once you’ve designated your alcohol-free driver or booked a taxi, you can head to some of these local hotels or cottages nearby the Wine Garden of England vineyards…
Hush Heath & Goudhurst
Thankfully one of the shorter journeys, at just three and a half miles away is Hush Heaths’ very own Goudhurst Inn. Once you’ve stocked up at the new visitor centre, it’ll no doubt be time to soak up on your new purchases. Serving gastropub favourites, continental treats and fresh clay oven pizzas that you can enjoy on the sun terrace, you’ll not want to leave, and as the pub has their own rooms, you won’t need to! Each room has been designed to culminate in a boutique country hotel – a retreat in the Weald.
Simpsons & Canterbury
Luckily being just over 15 minutes’ drive south of Canterbury, Simpsons Wine Estate has plenty of hotels and inns to settle down for the night after a busy day right on its doorstep. A fine example is the Abode Hotel in Canterbury. With some bedrooms featuring wet rooms and roll top baths to rooftop terraces overlooking the city, this hotel is the epitome of luxury in the centre of the city. If you can’t tuck into your purchases from Simpsons just yet, then there’s even a champagne bar on hand!
Squerryes & Chiddingstone
Sitting just outside of Westerham, Squerryes vineyard occupies prime Kentish countryside but within touching distance of the M25. Once you’ve tasted the wines or gone on the experiences, it’ll be time to head back home – or not. Sitting just 19 minutes from the vineyard is Mulberry Cottage’s Duck Lodge. This quaint lodging is filled with oak beams, a wood burner and other country ideals and is even home to some namesake creatures.
Chapel Down & Warehorne
Just south of Tenterden is where Chapel Down lies, a typically English town setting. With many pubs and independent shops there is plenty to do, but if you fancy getting away from it all and getting into the village lifestyle then head to nearby Warehorne and to the Woolpack Inn. The 16th Century Inn is surrounded by fields with grazing sheep, and inside is home to five individually styled rooms full of memorabilia and character. The restaurant downstairs even stocks the tipple from the vineyard you’ve just visited – just in case you need more!
Gusbourne & Hythe
Closer to the Woolpack Inn than Chapel Down is Gusbourne, yet if you are not picking countryside to sleep in for your night, perhaps head further east toward the beautiful Kent coast. Around 30 minutes’ drive away is the Hythe Imperial Hotel. Proudly standing on the seafront overlooking the English Channel, this hotel will truly make the difference to the countryside you have been accustomed to earlier in the day.
Rustic charm and appeal go with the 50-year history of Biddenden Vineyard. To go hand-in-hand yet in stark contrast with this is the Barrow House in Egerton. Built in 1576, the pub is a hive of activity for the village and its historic interior is combined with the modern features of each of their rooms, all with a minimalistic almost Scandi like outfitting. Once you’ve slept well overnight, head out and into the country as you’ll be greeted by sweeping views over toward the Kent Downs AONB.
For more information and inspiration from the Wine Garden of England, visit https://www.winegardenofengland.co.uk/