Many people associate England with pubs, beer, and gin. And rightly so! However, it’s time that England also becomes known for something that we love just as much as those things – wine. English wine, and particularly English sparkling wine, is produced at a quality expected from the top wine regions of the world, which only means one thing: in the future, England will be one of the top wine regions in the world.There are already over 100 wineries in England, many of which offer tours and tastings throughout the year. Don’t miss out on the opportunity to experience England’s wineries now, before they become flooded with tourists.
As wine lovers, we are incredibly excited to share our English wine experiences and hopefully help spread the word about English wine and encourage wine tourism in England. At this point in time, we have visited 9 of England’s wineries and we plan to visit all of them at some point. Here’s a deeper look into English wine and our recommendations for 5 must visit wineries in England.
READ MORE: Around the World in 18 Wines
English Wine vs. British Wine
People often confuse British Wine and English Wine, which is why English wine doesn’t have the reputation that it deserves. For awhile, we weren’t drinking either so we didn’t know there was a difference, or that the two different names even existed. Then, after our first English wine tasting experience on the Isle of Wight, we knew we liked English wine; in fact, we liked it so much that we had a couple of bottles in the car to bring home. Surely British wine is just a more broad way of explaining it, or perhaps the “politically correct” way to credit the UK as a whole? WRONG.
During our visit to Stanlake Winery in Twyford a couple weeks later, we finally learned all about English Wine vs. British Wine. British Wine is essentially any wine that is produced in Britain. The grapes do not have to be grown here nor do they even need to be pressed here. Instead, large vineyards from around the world (South Africa, France, Australia, etc.) send their leftover grape juice to British Wine producers who turn it into wine. That’s British Wine – it doesn’t sound too lovely, does it?
English Wine, on the other hand, is actually from England. The grapes are grown here and the wine is then produced here. English Wine comes from those adorable vineyards you pass in the countryside, and the lovely vintners you meet in the local pub. Local people growing local products to produce local wine. Now that’s what we like to hear!
English Wine: Local people growing local products to produce local wine.
A Note on English Sparkling Wine
When people think of bubbly, they usually think of champagne, sometimes prosecco. The term ‘sparkling wine’ is not used, even when it should be. In fact, before learning more about wine, we thought sparkling wine was just the term used for the cheapest of the cheap bubbly. But oh we were wrong! You see, those names are specific to a particular region and producers outside of those regions cannot also use them.
So here we are in England referring to our bubbly as sparkling wine because that’s what we need to do. But that doesn’t mean that it’s a lower quality than the wines found elsewhere; in fact, English sparkling wine is produced with the same method and to the same standard as champagne – so much so that English sparkling wine actually beat French champagne in a blind taste test! So if someone tries to tell you that there is nothing better than champagne, tell them they’re wrong. Unless, of course, your own taste buds tell you something different!
English wine is produced with the same method and to the same standard as champagne.
We recommend you keep an eye on English sparkling wine, which might soon be referred to as British Fizz, especially if your taste buds are usually drawn to the flavors of champagne or cava, the two most similar drinks. More and more English vineyards are popping up in the southern part of the country; French champagne houses are even starting to purchase land in England to test out their production techniques here. So you’ll definitely be hearing a lot about English sparkling wine if you aren’t already!
Due to the climate in the UK and the types of grapes which grow well here, most wines produced are of the white and rosé variety, with very few reds on the market. Sparkling wine is the most popular wine among wineries in England so if you’re making your rounds as a wine tourist, you’ll be seeing (and tasting) lots of it. Below are some of our recommendations for kicking off English wine tourism:
5 Wineries in England to add to your list!
After discovering more about the quality of English wine, and learning how much we like the taste, we knew we wanted to feature it on A Pair of Passports. We love tasting wines from all around the world, but there’s nothing better than finding something we love so close to home.
This list is nowhere near comprehensive. We hope to one day say we’ve visited all of the English winemakers; until then, we’re sharing our favourites so far and the ones we are most looking forward to visiting.
Stanlake Park Wine Estate, Twyford
Stanlake Park Wine Estate was the winery that got us really excited to try other wineries in England. This Berkshire wine estate is not the prettiest of all the English wineries we’ve been to, and it’s not home to our #1 favourite English wine, but it’s not to be missed! During our visit, our tour guide, Ruth, made our tour one of the most memorable wine tours we’ve ever done. She had the entire group laughing when she started off saying it would be more of a ‘drinking tour’ than anything else and spent the tour happily giving people seconds when she could. We learned a lot about wine that day, including the difference between English and British wine. The tour was entertaining, the wine was yummy, and we realised then that English wine has so much potential!
We recommend you try…Kings Fumé
Hambledon Vineyard, Hambledon
Located in Hambledon, the ‘Cradle of Cricket’, Hambledon honours their location with the image of two cricket bats on their logo. The first vines were planted at Hambledon in 1952 by Sir Guy Salisbury Jones, who later went on to produce the first commercial range of English Wines, making Hambledon the UK’s oldest commercial vineyard. The vineyard changed ownership and wine production stopped in the mid 1990s, but the current owner, Ian Kellett, acquired the vineyard in 1999 and set out to bring it back to its glory days. Now, the vineyard has greatly increased in size and is the only gravity-fed winery in the UK. It’s also located in the beautiful South Downs and run by the most generous staff, so it’s well worth a visit! For those interested in making a weekend out of it, we recommend Wriggly Tin Shepherds Huts for accommodation.
We recommend you try…Hambledon Classic Cuvée Rosé
Trevibban Mill Vineyard, Cornwall
Trevibban Mill is one of five wineries in Cornwall, located just outside of Padstow on a beautiful property with a contemporary building that houses the tasting room, winery, and restaurant. The restaurant, Appleton’s at the Vineyard, is the brain child of ex-Jamie Oliver’s Fifteen head chef, Andy Appleton. The winery focuses heavily on sustainability and local production, practicing organic farming and even hosting guests at their Eco lodge onsite. The interior is incredibly inviting and well thought out, but there is also seating outside for those interested gorgeous countryside views.
We recommend you try…Constantine Dry White
Biddenden Vineyards, Kent
Biddenden is a family-run wine estate in Kent that planted its first vines in 1969. It is currently run by the second and third generations of the family. The family manages everything, including the winemaking (about 80,000 bottles each year!). Like many other English wineries, they also produce cider. We love the family run aspect and the vineyard looks beautiful. That paired with the fact that Biddenden is located under two hours from London puts it at the top of our ‘to be visited’ wineries list!
We are excited to try…Ortega
Three Choirs Vineyards, Gloucestershire
Three Choirs seems like the place to go for the quintessential English wine experience. Located in the Cotswolds, the Three Choirs property consists of the vineyard and tasting room, accommodation, and a restaurant. The accommodation is located among the vines, which makes me think it’s the perfect destination for a romantic weekend away. While the original location is in Newent, Gloucestershire, Three Choirs also has a vineyard in Wickham, Hampshire.
We are excited to try…Raven’s Hill
Looking to try them all?
If you’re looking to try as many English wines as possible but are on a time crunch, the English Wine Centre is the place to go! The wine shop at the English Wine Centre offers over 150 English wine varieties for sale, including some of the ones we’ve mentioned above. It is possible to show up and taste a few wines, but they also offer tutored tastings on the first Saturday of every month. Go along to dine at their restaurant or pick up a few bottles of wine to go. Regardless, you’ll have the opportunity to walk away with some of the best wines in England!
Since the English weather makes wine production pretty hit or miss, many wineries in England produce more than wine, choosing to have cider or gin as a sort of revenue safety net. The shop at the English Wine Centre sells some of the locally produced products; however, many of the wineries sell them, too – ciders, jams, etc., produced on site or by other local producers. This is great for visitors because there is usually something for everyone, including individuals who don’t like wine. So there’s really no excuse to not pay a visit to England’s wineries!
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