5 of the best UK vineyards to visit

There was a time when British wine was the laughing stock of the wine world, but times have changed. With more than 700 in the UK, from the Channel Islands to the Outer Hebrides, what better way is there to find out more about our domestic wine than to visit a vineyard?

We asked reporter Kathryn Donachie to raise a glass to her favourite five. Santé!

1. Denbies Wine Estate, Dorking, Surrey 

Image: Helen Dixon

Established in 1986, this is England’s largest vineyard, with 265 acres planted, and one of the largest wine producers in the UK. Denbies’ wine now competes on an international level, and has won multiple gold awards for sparkling wine production.

There’s plenty to see and do on the estate as a visitor, with three indoor winery tours available every day, as well as an outdoor tour on a vineyard train with recorded commentary and fabulous views over the estate and the North Downs.

There are seven miles of public footpaths that wind through the vineyards, and if you want to get a taste of life among the vines then you can sign up for a grape-picking experience too! The vineyard’s two restaurants offer delicious dishes and afternoon tea – and there’s even a B&B attached if you want to kick back, stay over and enjoy a few! (www.denbies.co.uk)

2. Camel Valley, Bodmin, Cornwall

If you want a tour fit for a prince then head to the Camel Valley vineyard, which is the first English wine producer to be granted a royal warrant. The vineyard, on the slopes above the River Camel, was founded in 1989 and produces 10 wines, including a pinot noir rose and a sparkling red, as well as a sparkling cider.

Between April and October, there are daily weekday guided tours, which includes a glass of wine. And each Wednesday, there’s a grand tour and tasting. Booking is advised. If you don’t fancy a tour, then simply enjoy a glass or wine or two on the terrace overlooking the stunning scenery. (www.camelvalley.com)

3. Three Choirs Vineyards, Newent, Gloucestershire

This vineyard, nestled in the picturesque Gloucestershire hills, is one of the oldest in England. There are 75 acres of vines, some dating back to 1973, and all in a picture-perfect setting.

Three Choirs Vineyards produce a range of award-winning wines. Top sellers include the crisp, dry white Bacchus and a light fruity red, Ravens Hill. All grapes are grown on two estates, this one at Newent and one in Wickham, Hampshire, and all wine making is undertaken at its purpose-built winery at Newent.

Tours take place three times a week and there’s an option to include lunch at the vineyard’s delightful brasserie. Three Choirs also offers lovely accommodation, some with amazing views over the nearby vineyards. (www.three-choirs-vineyards.co.uk)

4. White Castle Vineyard, Abergavenny, Monmouthshire

Small can be perfect and it is in this case. With just five acres, this vineyard oozes peace and tranquility. The vineyard produces a range of award-winning wines including pinot noir, regent, rondo, phoenix, seyyal blanc and siegerrebe.

The vineyard opens for a tour followed by wine tasting on Friday, Saturdays and Sundays. As a special, lasting treat, there’s even the opportunity to adopt a vine. (www.whitecastlevineyard.com)

5. Kingscote Estate, East Grinstead, West Sussex

This 150-acre vineyard offers more than just wine – there’s lots of walking in beautiful countryside and even the chance to try clay pigeon shooting or a spot of fishing at the picturesque Leggett Lakes!

Kingscote’s first vines were planted in 2010 and now the vineyard produces more than 100,000 bottles a year. The vineyard’s grapes include pinot meunier, pinot noir, chardonnay, bacchus, pinot blanc and regent grapes. There’s also Kingscote Sparkling Cyder if you fancy a break from wine.

The Bluebell Railway runs through Kingscote Estate so why not arrive in style by steam train at Kingscote Station and enjoy a walk to the vineyard! Tours of the vines and winery followed by a tasting session run twice daily from April to September on Thursday and Sundays.

If you’ve got something special to celebrate then take your tour to another level by booking a gourmet lunch in the estate’s beautiful tithe barn (pictured below). (www.kingscoteestate.com)

If you don’t fancy straying too far from home, or you want to start compiling your own list of favourites, then use the Great British Vineyard Guide’s local guide to see what’s available where you live (http://www.gbvg.uk/).

Anyone thirsty?

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