UK vineyards have been producing wine since the Roman’s brought it over with them. By the time Henry VIII ascended to the throne, there were roughly 139 established British vineyards, but they weren’t to last. Sadly, competition from the continent saw the closure of the last commercial British vineyard in the 1920s.
Now, that might have been the end of the road for the English wine industry. But luckily for us, that wasn’t the case. Thanks to the hardwork and dedication of the myriad vineyard founders and winemakers in Blighty in the 1990s and 2000s, the English wine industry is once more going from strength to strength.
Which is why you’re now reading an article on (in our humble opinion), the top 6 UK vineyards producing exquisite English wine.
So let’s begin.
En route from the UK to Australia, Gregory Blaxland collected vines from the Cape of Good Hope. He subsequently planted these in his new homeland and became the first person to export wine from his vineyard in Australia, back to the UK in the 1800s.
Fast forward 200 years and Blaxland’s descendant, Henry Blaxland, inspired by his ancestors, planted 6.24 hectares of vines here in Blighty, on his family farm overlooking Canterbury Cathedral.
What makes their land so exceptional for vine growing?
The strata of chalk, limestone and clay is almost identical in composition to the soil found in the Champagne region in France. Making it an easy choice for them to plant the classic champagne varieties of Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Meunier, which go into their outstanding sparkling wine (made by legendary winemaker, Emma Rice).
Want to try their wares? We wholeheartedly recommend (and retail) their Pinot Gris, a still white wine made by Defined Wine, a startup winery in Canterbury, and already garnering critical acclaim.
Hambledon vineyard is a standard bearer for the quality of sparkling wines that England is capable of producing. They create award-winning English sparkling wines, time after time.
The first grape seeds were sown at Hambledon in 1952 by Major General Sir Guy Salisbury-Jones, and little could he know he was making history, birthing the oldest commercial British vineyard.
Today, Hambledon has over 100,000+ established vines, spread over 200 acres of British vineyards, across multiple sites. Each vineyard is planted with the three grape varieties most commonly found in the Champagne region in France - Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier.
Each of their vines are pruned by hand, the grapes are handpicked. Their presses and winery are located on site, minimising the time between picking and pressing, maximising the quality of their wine.
Take a tour of their vineyard and taste their produce. Enjoy sparkling afternoon tea for two. But if you can’t wait, try their Hambledon classic cuvee today, a truly minimalist sparkling wine.
While this quirky vineyard may still fly under the radar for a lot of people, for those in the know, this English vineyard making funky low intervention wines, such as their Tillingham White, in their iconic hop barn, is a real delight.
Their natural wines are the result of a low intervention wine making process, honed over the centuries. If you haven’t tried natural wine before, you’re in for a treat.
With over 40,000 vines set in over 70 acres of lush, rolling Sussex hills, this isn’t just a vineyard, this is a farmhouse / hotel (with 11 rooms) / restaurant type affair. Founded by winemaker Ben Walgate, the aspiration for Tillingham is for it to become entirely self-sufficient.
We’re thrilled to retail some of this wonderful little vineyard’s offerings, but if you would prefer to sample them in situ, enjoy their stripped back wine in their wine tasting room. Or pair it with a stripped back menu in their restaurant. Wine tours are available by appointment only.
Enjoy organic wine from the largest single-estate producer of English organic wine. Situated in East Sussex, Oxney Organic Estate is far more than just a British vineyard.
If you have the time, go and stay with them and experience the Oxney terroir for yourself. Either overnight in their Jacobean house, or book a stay in their cosy tongue and groove shepherd’s huts.
Don’t want to stay? Just want a vineyard tour? Book a tour and stay for an idyllic picnic lunch afterwards. Available (when open) every Saturday from April to November.
Can’t make it down for a visit? Try a bottle of their Oxney Pinot Noir Rose in the meantime. It’s strawberry smiles and summer in a bottle.
5. Camel Valley
Cornwall is one of the warmest counties in the UK, making it the perfect location for viticulture. Which is why 8,000 vines were planted in the Camel Valley in 1989 and today, they’re still going strong.
Enjoy a taste of Cornish wine on the Camel Valley sun terrace overlooking their beautiful vineyard, Monday - Friday, 11am-4.30pm.
Want to know more about the vineyard? Then take one of their drop-in tours of the vineyard between April and September, or book one of their outing and wine tasting sessions that take place on Wednesdays at 5pm.
Prefer an overnight visit? When they open again, take your pick of two beautiful cottages set high on the slope of the valley, overlooking the vineyards and the valley beyond.
In the meantime, sample their Camel Valley Brut - an outstandingly delicious Cornish fizz.
Try the Norfolk rioja, we were advised. We laughed. We sipped and stopped laughing. Wow.
Winbirri Signature Norfolk Rioja is the real deal.
Produced on the first UK vineyard to win the coveted ‘Decanter World Wine Awards’ for a still wine, this is a vineyard not to be missed.
Join them in their Wine Garden, set on the edge of the vineyard, where you can enjoy the fruits of their labour (11am-5pm, Saturday and Sunday, May - mid-September) right next to the vines that yielded the grapes.
Take a vineyard tour and tasting experience around Norfolk’s Winbirri Vineyard, before proceeding to the winery to learn more about the processes of turning their grapes into their award winning wines, before completing your tour and sampling what you came for - a selection of Winbirri wines.
What a day out!