Kent: A Wine Lover’s Dream
Our amazing county of Kent is known as the Garden of England, and for good reason. Here you can find a bountiful amount of produce from our enviable orchards, our fertile farmyards, our wonderful woodland and even some of the very best vineyards in the country.
Wine from Kent is up there with the best of them, winning awards and gaining fans seemingly every day. English wine (that is, wine made in the UK from grapes grown in England, as opposed to British wine which is wine made in the UK with grapes imported from elsewhere) is taking the vinification world by storm and far from being the butt of the joke as it once was, it is now revered the world over.
And if you’re wondering just where this fabulous wine can be found, you might be surprised at the number of winemakers and vineyards Kent is home to.
Despite the Romans having taken over Kent by AD250, and despite the fact that they drank (and made) copious amounts of wine, by the time they left our shores in the 5th century, there was no real evidence left behind that wine making had ever happened. Tools, yes. Villas, yes. Bones, yes. But vines and wine? Not a jot. Not a sip.
And it wasn’t until 1969 that anything happened to change our idea that wine making in England simply wasn’t possible. With our weather? With our soil? Wine? It had to be a joke, and yet 1969 is the year in which the very first vineyard was planted in our county. It was planted by the Barnes family, and it is still producing excellent quality grapes today. You may even have tasted the final product – that vineyard was Biddenden, and four decades on it is now one of many Kentish vineyards that are the envy of the world.
In total, Kent has around 350 acres of wine producing vineyards, and the wine it does produce has won award after award. So where are these fine wine producing vines? You may be surprised.
Gribble Bridge Lane, Biddenden TN27 8DF
As Kent’s original commercial vineyard, Biddenden has a lot to live up to, but it seems to be doing magnificently well, and is even better today than it was back in 1969 when it all began. Biddenden is a family-run concern, and the second and third generations of the Barnes family are still there, creating its award-winning drinks. Biddenden has 23 acres of vineyards and grows 11 different varieties of grapes, enabling it to produce excellent white, rosé, and sparkling wines. These include the Ortega 2015, the Pinot Reserve 2010 and the Gribble Bridge Sparkling wines. In addition to wine, there are juices and ciders made here too.
Hush Heath Winery
Five Oak Lane, Staplehurst TN12 0HT
The Hush Heath Estate is a large one, comprising of a whopping 400 acres. That includes vineyards, apple orchards and even some ancient woodland. All of this adds to the taste of the drinks that are produced here, even the woodland which is full of gorgeous flora and fauna has a hand in the taste of the wine at Hush Heath thanks to cross pollination. Everything that Hush Heath produces starts off life in those 400 acres, ensuring a complete provenance that can be linked right back to the Staplehurst ground. Hush Heath started as a hobby for owner Richard Balfour-Lynn, but it soon outgrew this title and is now an impressive wine and cider business. Wine made at Hush Heath includes Skye’s English White, Hush Heath Manor Pinot Noir, and Nanette’s English Rosé. It is famous for producing England’s ‘most exclusive pink fizz’ (the Balfour Brut Rosé) as well, and Hush Heath Winery has plenty more available as well, including cider.
Chapel Down Winery
Small Hythe, Tenterden TN30 7NG
Since it began in 1977, Chapel Down has become the largest UK producer of wine – and the winery has a capacity of one million litres! Some of those litres go to provide restaurants run by Jamie Oliver and Gordon Ramsay, and Chapel Down wine can also be found at The Royal Opera House, Turner Contemporary, The Donmar Warehouse, The Barbican and even 10 Downing Street. There are a number of excellent wines available from Chapel Down. Sparkling varieties include the Kit’s Coty Blanc de Blancs and the Three Graces, 2011. Still wine includes the Flint Dry, 2016, the Bacchus, 2016 and the Union Red, 2015.
Squerryes Court Vineyard
The Squerryes Estate, Westerham TN16 1SL
The Squerryes Estate is in a beautiful area of the Kent Downs, and takes up 2,500 impressive acres in this area of outstanding natural beauty. Not all of this land is used for grape growing; some of it is home to a 200-strong dairy herd, and more is used to produce wheat, malting barley and oilseed rape. The vineyard consists of 35 acres. It was planted back in 2006, and is now producing the most exquisite sparkling wine that has won awards. The exclusive first vintage reserve is made from a blend of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Meunier grapes, all grown on the Squerryes estate.
Meopham Valley Vineyard
Whether you choose sparkling, white, rosé, or a mixed case of wine, you know you will be getting quality from Meopham Valley Vineyard. Meopham Valley Vineyard was first started by husband and wife team David and Pauline Grey in 1991, with plenty of advice from expert grape grower Gillian Peakes. It took a little while to find the best place to start the vineyard, but the terroir of north Kent proved a winner, and now this two-hectare estate is producing some magnificent results. David and Pauline retired in 2014, and now Sirjhit and Ben Bassi are in charge. The wine made here includes Meopham Valley sparkling pinot gris, Meopham Valley sparkling brut and some lovely fresh grape juice too.
Terlingham Vineyard & Winery
Terlingham Lane, Folkestone CT18 7AE
Each different Terlingham wine has its own unique personality, and the growing methods are different too – the owners are keen to use natural farming methods to produce their wonderful grapes, and this is one of the things that makes Terlingham stand out. The wine is made using traditional methods, and the winemakers themselves truly care about what they do. This is why the White Cliffs and Saxon Shore wines that are made here are award winning.
Kenardington Road, Appledore TN26 2BE
Award-winning wine maker, Gusbourne, is all about perfection. Sparkling, white, red, and rosé are all produced here. This includes the flagship wine, the Blanc de Blancs. This is made using hand selected grapes, and is aged for a minimum of 36 months. There is also a wonderful sparkling rosé that is summer in a bottle. The Gusbourne estate dates back to 1410, but it wasn’t until 2004 that winemaker, Andrew Weeber, took over the estate with one clear vision – to create the ultimate English sparkling wine.
The Mount Vineyard
The Mount, Church Street, Shoreham TN14 7SD
This ideally situated vineyard produces award winning still and sparkling wines and is open Thursday – Sunday 12-6pm year round thanks to their new retractable roof across their beautiful courtyard. The Mount won Kent Wine of the Year 2017. The Romans used to grow grapes in this area, and the methods haven’t changed very much in the past 2,000 years. Probably the best known wine made at The Mount Vineyard is the dry sparkling rosé which is created using pinot noir, seyval and phoenix grapes using traditional methods, but they introduced a wonderful white sparkling recently too. Other wines include the Pinot Noir 2013, the Flint Key 2015 and the deep, warm red Cellar Key.
Fleming Road, Staple, Canterbury CT3 1LG
Barnsole Vineyard is situated on fertile land that has been farmed for many centuries, and that makes it the perfect place to produce excellent sparkling and still wines to both the public and trade. This boutique vineyard offers a variety of lovely wines including the Barnsole 2015 Dry Reserve (a fruity yet dry white wine), the Barnsole 2015 Kent Classic (ideal with pork) and the Barnsole 2015 Red Reserve (this wine has plum and cherry flavours, and is low in sulphites).
Wittersham, Tenterden TN30 7NP
Harbourne Vineyard produces a variety of wines from grapes such as Ortega, Regner, Muller Thurgau, Seyval Blanc and Pinot Meunier. These wines are suitable for vegetarians and vegans. Everything is grown, made and even bottled at the vineyard, making this a definite all-in-one operation. The vineyard at Harbourne was originally planted in 1979, and traditional methods are still very much in use. Thanks to the elevation of the land, frost is hardly ever a problem meaning that a good crop of grapes is produced each year. And anything that is left over in the winemaking process, such as skins and pips, is used as fertiliser, so nothing is ever wasted.
Susan’s Hill, Woodchurch TN26 3RE
A combination of the perfect location and a wealth of knowledge make Woodchurch Wine Estate one to watch. Woodchurch is a family business that started in 2009, and it is now an award-winning vineyard producing the Woodchurch Classic Cuvee 2013, Woodchurch Rosé 2014 and Woodchurch Blanc de Blancs 2013. The first wines were released in 2015, and each year will have completely different characteristics, which makes Woodchurch an interesting prospect all round.
Marden Organic (Herbert Hall Wines Ltd)
Poultry Farm, Plain Road, Marden TN12 9LS
It is sparkling wine that is created at Marden Organic Vineyard, and, as the vineyard’s name suggests, the grapes are grown organically. That means that wine you get at the end of the traditional process will be organic too – and its provenance is completely traceable. These handmade wines are made in the ‘brut’ style, and some of it is in fermented in old oak barrels. This adds a very special flavour and a roundness to the wine which has been described as ‘masterful’ by Tom Stevenson, author of Sotheby’s Wine Encyclopaedia.
Colliers Green TN17 2LR
The owners of Kent Vineyard took over the vines in 2009 and set about immediately resurrecting the vines and the land in order to make stunning wine. It worked, and after just a few years the first wine was made in 2013. The owners offer ‘Cheery Day Wine Events’ so you can find out more about what they do and how they do it. For those with a keen interest in wine and winemaking, you can really get involved and actually be part of the winemaking process, enabling you to taste the fruits of your labours when it is all ready. It was started in 2009 and today it is a thriving enterprise, offering wines such as Rampant Horse, named for Invicta, the symbol of Kent.
Burnt House Farm, Station Road, Chartham, Canterbury CT4 7HU
Traditional farming methods and an eco-friendly approach is what goes into making the wines at Kent’s newest vineyard, Chartham. Owned by Doctor Roz Waller and her husband, Richard Goodenough, and managed by their son, Andy, this vineyard is ready and raring to go. The wines are sold directly from the farm, and although they are not made on site at the moment, that is the plan for the future. A lovely pinot noir, a bacchus, a pinot gris and of course an exceptional blanc de blancs are all available from the onsite farm shop.