England's wonderful wineries

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Anna Brech
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Imagine this: it's a sunny day and you're knocking back a chilled glass of sparkling Rosé surrounded by the gently rolling slopes of the vineyard that's produced it. This rustic vision is no longer confined to the Tuscan hills and the south of France but can be found all over England, as our home grown-wine industry flourishes.

The reach of locally produced plonk has even extended to London, with a commercial winery set to hit the capital this year. London Cru - opening in an old gin distillery in Earl's Court this November - will allow Londoners to get involved in the wine-making process for the first time.

While it will import grapes from France rather than growing its own fruit, vineyards elsewhere in the UK are thriving, with the past five years witnessing a dramatic increase in the quality and variety of fine English wines.

"The English wine scene is buzzing at the moment, especially because of the improvement in quality and increase in number of sparkling wines, some of which have blown me away at recent wine industry tastings," says wine journalist Jane Parkinson (@jane_parkinson).

"The launch of brands such as Coates and Seely, Gusbourne and Ambriel are doing a fantastic job at supporting the English sparkling wine pioneers Nyetimber and Ridgeview. These days when I visit wine producers abroad, I’m regularly asked what is happening with English sparkling wine, so its reputation is gaining traction internationally as well as back home."

With that in mind, come raise a glass to our pick of some of England's best vineyards and locally produced plonk - with a little help from your suggestions on Twitter:

Photos: Rex Features, Getty Images and vineyards' own

Camel Valley, Cornwall

This bucolic family-run vineyard leading down to the River Camel in Bodmin has acquired a heaving mass of awards since it began business in 1989. Its Pinot Noir Rosé Brut is one of its star bestsellers and comes with delicate strawberry and raspberry tones.

"You'd be surprised how many customers say they first tried a glass of our wine at Tate Modern in London and felt they just had to come and visit the vineyard," say Bob Lindo, who founded the vineyard with his wife Annie. "I think making a top quality product is the secret of our success."

Chapel Down, Kent

There's a lot of love for Chapel Down's "excellent sparkling wine" among our readers on Twitter, with one particularly excited message reading, "Champagne...WATCH OUT!"

Business is booming at this Kent-based vineyard, with a dazzling array of wines drawing in profits in Britain and abroad. We particularly like the sound of Chapel Down Flint Dry white wine, with citrus, greengage, apricot and floral aromas.

Nyetimber, West Sussex

Based on a medieval estate in West Sussex, Nyetimber is a true pioneer of the English wine scene. Since its launch in 1988, its vineyards have expanded from 35 to 500 acres, all devoted to "the holy trinity" of Champagne grapes: Chardonnay, Pinot Meunier and Pinot Noir.

Its star wines, including Classic Cuvée, Blanc de Blanc, Rosé and Demi Sec, have picked up a wealth of international awards and celebrity endorsements - not to mention kudos among our readers. "You have to try @nyetimber for their beautiful English fizz!" writes one user.

Coates & Seely, Hampshire

Coates & Seely is the brainchild of two old friends - Christian Seely and Nicholas Coates - who set out on a mission to create "a great English sparkling wine... grown on the Southern chalk down lands of England." Their approach has been to apply French winemaking craft (Seely is managing director of AXA Millésimes vineyards in France) to the unique chalk soils of the North Hampshire Downs.

It's a winning formula that has attracted rave reviews from critics who eulogise over their "pursuit of excellence, expression, and balance, embodied in great English sparkling wine" (as proclaimed on the Coates & Seely Twitter account).

Three Choirs, Gloucestershire

Three Choirs near Newent, Gloucestershire is one of the longest running vineyards in Britain - it set up shop in 1973 and produced its first vintage in 1976. It has a number of acres set aside for experimental varieties but it's best known for its white wines and sparkling wines, produced with expert attention to grape quality, wind protection for the vines and optimum leaf to fruit ratio.

Its Bacchus 2010 creation is dry and aromatic, with an intriguing blend of fresh asparagus, elderflower, nettles and herb notes.

Quoins, Wiltshire

One of six certified organic vineyards in the UK, Quoins is a small family-run business near Bath in the Cotswolds. It grows three varieties of grape, two white and one red, to produce single variety wines.

Its Orion medium dry white wine with hints of dried apricots and mango was recently awarded a silver prize by UKVA (United Kingdom Vineyards Association).

As well as opening for tours and tastings, the vineyard is home to a number of unusual fruit plants, including Asian pears, the Shipova rowan-pear cross, and edible honeysuckle.

Ridgeview, Sussex

This smallish estate on the South Downs draws from a similar soil quality to the Champagne region of France, 80 miles to the south. Its excellent fizz is hailed by stockists Waitrose, who describe is as "lovely, crisp wine with biscuity notes and a very refreshing finish."

Ridgeview's range and quality of sparkling wines have been recognised via a string of awards including, most recently, a gold for its Grosvenor Blanc de Blanc 2010 at the Sommelier Wine Awards 2013. No wonder it won with its irresistible-sounding "subtle bouquet with suggestions of honey and brioche."

According to one of our readers, Ridgeview is "nice, good quality, always vintage and I just like their style."

Ambriel, West Sussex

Redfold Vineyards is the home of Ambriel sparkling wine and each year they make a Classic Cuvée from a blend of their three classic champagne grape varieties - Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier. The vineyards are situated on the greensand slopes of West Sussex's South Downs.

"We don’t seek to produce a homogenised wine year in year out but aim for something more interesting," say husband and wife team, Charles and Wendy Outhwaite. "Our blending philosophy is to create wines which reflect the best characteristics of our terroir and the climate of the vintage."

Denbies, Surrey

"We love Denbies in Surrey. Fantastic place to go for great wine, food and informative staff. Shop is good too!" raves one Stylist reader. This Dorking-based winery is indeed a bit of a gem and even comes with its own outdoor vineyard train. Established in 1986, this family-run estate has 265 acres under vine and produces a range of award-winning wines, including the Chalk Ridge Rosé 2010 which was branded "best rosé in the world" at British-based wine competition the International Wine Challenge.

Denbies English White was also the first English wine to be included in (and made especially for) the Tesco Finest range, in 2011.

Gusbourne, Kent

This two hundred hectare estate in Kent is leading the way in producing a new generation of elegant sparkling wines. With clay soil and sea air to prolong the growing season, Gusbourne credits its unique terroir for the high quality of its Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier grape yield. Its highly respected selection of wines includes the Sparkling Rose 2009 with strawberry, cranberry and rhubarb aromas.

Bolney, West Sussex

Bolney wine estate in West Sussex "make an amazing sparkling wine!", says our source on Twitter. Its story began in 1972 with three acres of vines and with the same family behind it, the vineyard now boasts 39 acres and has become a specialist red wine producer (although it also makes white and traditional method sparkling wines).

Head winemaker and managing director Sam Linter, whose parents founded the estate, offers winemaking contract services and helped to make Chateau Tooting - an inner city vintage created from grapes grown in London gardens and pressed and produced at Bolney. "It is a highlight of the harvest to see these small producers bringing their grapes in, full of anticipation for the wine they will receive back," Linter told the Independent at the time.

Words: Anna Brech


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Anna Brech

Anna Brech is a freelance journalist and former editor for Her six-year stint on the site saw her develop a vociferous appetite for live Analytics, feminist opinion and good-quality gin in roughly equal measure. She enjoys writing across all areas of women’s lifestyle content but has a soft spot for books and escapist travel content.