Award Winning Vineyards to Visit (IEWA 2018)
There are all sorts of reasons to visit vineyards, one of which is to explore the source of a favourite wine. But what if you don’t yet have a favourite English or Welsh wine? We thought we would take a look at some medal winners from the recent Independent English Wine Awards (IEWA 2018) and see what inspiration we can find for vineyard visits.
[Gold medal for Pinot Gris 2015 & Silver for Pinot Blanc 2015]
Stopham Estate is definitely at the “meet the winemaker / vineyard manager with their dirty hands” end of the visitor spectrum, rather than a slick tourism experience, but once you’ve visited a few vineyards, that’s likely an experience you will appreciate.
Owner and Winemaker Simon Woodhead is a former Formula 1 Engineer, one of quite a few former F1 people in English wine, as it happens. His approach to precision in winemaking is legendary, but he can still explain the processes involved in a manner which is comprehensible and interesting whatever your level of knowledge.
Stopham’s Pinot Gris and Pinot Blanc are consistently excellent – try them both and see which you like best. Tours run most Saturday mornings.
[Gold & best overall sparkling wine for Rosé 2014,Silver for Blanc de Noirs 2013 & Bronze for Classic Cuvée 2014]
These 3 medals show the strength in depth at this sparkling wine producer in glorious rural Dorset. There is a winery on site and you can book a tour or take the self-guided tour.
The tasting room doubles up as a café with local specialities, so it’s a great place to pop in for as long as you have available and either just pick up a couple of bottles or linger over lunch.
Look out for the increasing range of evening events, too, if you live or are holidaying in the area.
[Gold for Classic Cuvée 2013]
Grapes are grown overlooking the north downs and made into wine by winemaker Dermot Sugrue – if you haven’t yet heard of Dermot, it won’t be long before you do as he makes many of the best sparkling wines around.
The vineyard is at the family home and not open often, so the best way to visit is to look out for open days as part of Hampshire Food Festival or why not combine with visits to a few other vineyards with Hampshire Tours or English Wine Tasting Tours?
[Gold for Sparkling Kerner 2014, Silver for Bacchus 2016, Bronze for Old Vine Kerner 2015]
An impressive haul of medals for little Astley Vineyard in Worcestershire (yes, really!) Now under new ownership, the vines previously lovingly tended by Jonty Daniels are looked after by the Haywood family.
Kerner is not the most well-known grape, largely because it’s extremely difficult to grow, so the gold medal for this sparkler is a huge compliment, especially when it was up against traditional champagne styles. A silver medal for a Bacchus from only last year suggests that this wine will be even better if you can keep your hands off it for a year.
Work is underway on a new tasting room and winery, so my advice, unless you are based very close by, would be to order a couple of bottles online to try at your leisure and then to visit later in the summer.
[Gold for Rosé 2014]
A winery renowned for its consistently high quality sparkling wines, produced under the guidance of winemaker Emma Rice. We love that Hattingley is also well known for bringing on less experienced winemakers with Jacob Leadley rapidly gaining a reputation in his own right and Zoë Driver one of the few English wine apprentices to date, who gained the role after stiff competition, as you would expect.
Book yourself onto a tour and tasting, which run relatively often – there’s either a 90 minute tour which includes the winery or a 2 hour tour, which also takes in the vineyard, just a little way up the road, and well worth including if you have the time. Both are followed by tastings.
[Silver for Bacchus 2016, Bronze for Rondo 2016]
Here’s another vineyard that you can just pop into during its extensive opening hours – the shop has a delicious range of local produce and in the summer you can have a light lunch outside.
The vineyard is on the main A30 only just outside Penzance, so very easy to visit if you’re anywhere near Penzance or St Ives. You can even see the sea from the top of the vineyard.
Bacchus is a grape gaining increased notice in the UK, and the perfect wine to accompany the local food. We think comparing it to Sauvignon Blanc doesn’t quite do this aromatic wine justice, but it’s a way of getting people to try it. Rondo is another grape that used to be grown widely in England, a variety that copes well with the vagaries of our climate and produces a very deep red wine. There’s a good range of wines and fruit juices produced. Winemaker John has a delicate touch with oak, which makes for some more unusual and delicious wines.
[Silver for Balfour Blanc de Blancs 2014]
Hush Heath was at the forefront of quality producers opening their doors to the public. We are very fond of a self-guided trail and theirs meanders delightfully around the vineyards and orchards. Tours are also available and should be booked in advance.
Their range of wines is always underpinned by the flagship sparkling wine Balfour Brut Rosé, with an increasing range of other still and sparkling offerings produced depending on the particular season’s quality and quantity of grapes.
This is another vineyard whose facilities will be considerably enhanced in 2018 and we’re really looking forward to seeing this.
[Silver for Classic Cuvée 2015]
One of a small number of quality organic vineyards in England and Wales, an excellent result for the debut sparking wine from Oxney Organic, who also gained acclaim for their still rosé.
Not far from Rye, yet in beautiful unspoilt countryside, there is a tasting room you can pop into during their weekday opening hours, tours tend to run on Saturdays.
The estate also includes a flock of sheep and you can even stay at the vineyard in one of 2 shepherd’s huts or in the converted barns we recently reviewed.
Of course not all wine producers enter each set of awards, but these have given us a nice range of vineyards all around the country and, we would suggest, a great starting point for planning some vineyard visits.
Looking for something closer to home? Check out our map of visitor-friendly vineyards.
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