Wondering how to make your next Great British staycation even more special? If you enjoy wine, good food and the fresh outdoors, treat yourself to a day of wine-tasting in the beauty of the English countryside. Much to many people’s surprise, the UK is quietly becoming one of the world’s top wine producers offering everything from fruity and aromatic sparkling wines, to distinctive reds and delicate whites.
Imagine it’s a sunny day and you’re sipping a chilled glass of sparkling Rosé surrounded by the gently rolling slopes of the vineyard that’s produced it. England’s ripening crop of vineyards are flourishing with many offering talks, tours and tastings all year round – some with highly acclaimed restaurants serving local dishes to perfectly compliment their wine’s distinctive style.
Make the most of the UK’s burgeoning wine scene and raise a glass to our pick of some of England’s best vineyards.
Three Choirs Vineyard, Gloucestershire
Sweeping across 75 acres of the Gloucestershire Hills, Three Choirs is an idyllic English vineyard boasting around 14 varieties of multiple award-winning English wines including Pinot Noir, Classic Cuvée and Bacchus. One of England’s oldest vineyards founded in 1973, visitors are invited to relax with tours, tastings and cookery courses, followed by a light lunch among the vines in the summerhouse or a restorative supper in the restaurant.
Picture yourself tucking into charred wood pigeon breast served with carrot kimchi and pickled oriental mushrooms, followed by Herefordshire 28-day-aged porterhouse steak with either a bordelaise sauce or wasabi and miso butter. The seasonal menus change regularly offering up new delights that pair perfectly with a glass of Three Choirs’ unique and fruity English wines, against a backdrop of rippling vines that stretch into the Forest of Dean beyond. Be sure to pop into the vineyard’s shop where you can purchase a bottle of your favourite tipple and for a special gift or a memento to remember the day you can ‘adopt a vine’.
Sheepskin recommends: Bacchus 2014 - dry and aromatic, with an intriguing blend of elderflower, nettles and herb notes.
A place to rest your head: Staunton - Church Farm Cottage, Forest of Dean.
Chapel Down Winery, Kent
For the opportunity to treat your palate to some of the finest vintages the UK has to offer, visit Chapel Down in Kent. Famously known as the Garden of England, Kent has been at the centre of England’s wine-making industry for centuries and Chapel Down, with its world-class collection of sparkling and still wines, together with an award-winning array of beers and ciders, is at the forefront. Discover the winemaking process from grape to bottle in one of the vineyards’ seasonal tours and tutored tastings, sample modern British cuisine in the Swan Restaurant, and purchase fine local produce and your preferred Chapel Down wines from its well-stocked shop.
Thanks to the region’s excellent soils, Chapel Down boasts a very distinct and revered batch of British vinos – its acclaimed sparkling wines have a formidable reputation, packed with flavour, and it’s no surprise that the vineyard supplies British icons including Gordon Ramsay and Jamie Oliver. Some of its finest vintages were also reputedly served at the Royal Wedding of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. Set amongst 22 acres of vineyards and recognised as an ‘Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty’, this winery is a unique and memorable day out for all.
Sheepskin recommends: Kit's Coty Coeur De Cuvée 2013 - a rich, elegant English sparkling wine with aromas of ripe green apple, hazelnuts and freshly baked brioche.
A place to rest your head: House On The Hill, Hastings.
Glyndwr Vineyard, Vale of Glamorgan
Home to a menagerie of wildlife including chickens, ducks, wild pheasants and even llamas, Glyndwr Vineyard is the oldest and largest established vineyard in Wales. Situated among beautiful National Garden Scheme gardens, visitors can wander around six acres of vines, meadow lawns of wild-flowers, apple trees and glistening ponds. The highlight is of course, a tour and tasting of the vineyards’ fruity whites, vintage sparkling and oak aged red wines, complimented by delicious home-cooked meals and Welsh cheeses.
With the environment in mind, the vines are treated with organic materials and the results have been so well received that Glyndwr wines have been served in the House of Lords and at European State banquets.
Sheepskin recommends: Glyndwr Red 2015 - gently aged in American Oak barrels, the result is a ruby, complex and fruity red wine.
A place to rest your head: Staunton – Church Farm Cottage, Forest of Dean
Ryedale Vineyards, Yorkshire
On a balmy summer’s day, enjoy a refreshing glass of pink sparkling wine at Ryedale Vineyards, England’s most northerly commercial vineyard. Sitting at the foot of the rolling Yorkshire Wolds, this thriving winery is home to ten acres of vines, three of which are pure organic, all cultivated in an environmentally-friendly way. You might be surprised that this chilly Northern county is a flourishing destination for English wine production, but thanks to hardier grape varieties that better adapt to colder environments, this vineyard is incredibly successful and has won a fine selection of awards.
Uncover the mysteries of wine production in an informative yet informal tour and tasting where you can sample a variety of their wines accompanied by home-made nibbles. You will also have the opportunity to purchase your favourite tipples directly from the winery. We do recommend packing a pair of wellingtons when you visit – this is Yorkshire after all!
Sheepskin recommends: The Dalesman Sparkling - A beautifully soft, fruity blush sparkling wine. Deliciously off dry and absolutely perfect with smoked salmon or white meat.
A place to rest your head: Buttercrambe Shepherds Hut, Buttercrambe
Aldwick Court Farm, Somerset
Nestled deep in the heart of blissful countryside is Aldwick Court Farm, Somerset’s largest vineyard. Spread over 11 acres this family-run winery produces multi award-winning vintages, and led by a knowledgeable guide, you can delve into its history and cultivate an understanding of English viticulture on a tour of the vineyards. Having gained an insight into the complexities of English wine-making, you can toast your experience in style with a tasting session. Seize the opportunity to go behind the scenes of this young vineyard and marvel the fruits of Aldwick’s labour, you won’t be disappointed.
Sheepskin recommends: Mary’s Rose 2016 - Provence-esque Somerset rosé elegantly balanced with a nose of zippy citrus and a palate of refreshing strawberry and pink grapefruit.
A place to rest your head: Laundry Cottage, Combe Hay
Renishaw Hall Vineyard, Chesterfield
If you are visiting the Peak District, be sure to take advantage of a tour of Renishaw Hall Vineyard. Running once a month during the summer, these fascinating tours explore Renishaw’s historic vines that have been producing grapes for over 40 years. It may be modest in size, but the vineyard’s award-winning wines, both still and sparkling, are simply divine. After your tour you can enjoy a bite to eat at Renishaw Hall’s café or purchase a bottle of wine from its shop to enjoy at home or to save for a special occasion.
Sheepskin recommends: Madeleine Angevine – smooth with hints of gooseberry, peach, orange and lemon zest.
A place to rest your head: Robin Hood Cottage, Bakewell
There are nearly 400 flourishing vineyards and wineries across England and Wales. English Wine Week (26th May – 3rd June 2018) invites us to "think, drink English", with a host of activities, events, tours and tastings happening across the country. If you decide to join the celebrations and visit a UK vineyard, we would love to see your pictures - simply tag us and use #sheepskinlife for the chance to be featured on our Instagram, Facebook and Twitter pages.
When it’s time to rest your head after an indulgent day of wine tasting and finding your inner connoisseur, browse our collection of luxurious holiday cottages and find the perfect hideaway for a staycation to remember.