June 29, 2022

Visiting Wineries In England

You’re in the center of London in the hustle and bustle, far away from wineries in England. You check out of your hotel, roll your suitcase to the tube station, brushing shoulders with countless people on the street before you head underground to catch your train. In a little over an hour, you emerge from the train station in a pastoral, rural setting with lambs and baby cows in every pasture! It is time to exhale and enjoy the calm, relaxed pace of English wine country.

The bulk of the wineries in England lie south of London in the Kent and Sussex areas, near Brighton. This area is known for the traditional method of sparkling wine, made in the same style as Champagne. In fact, 75% of all wine in this region is sparkling. If you find yourself scratching your head at the mention of English wine, you’re not alone. In decades prior, the quality of wine coming out of England was questionable. The region was too cold and wet to grow quality grapes for wine.

Climate change and increasing temperatures have, in fact, allowed for more quality grapes to be grown in English wine countries. Still, the region struggles with frost pressure with the weather being consistently inconsistent, as the locals say. If you need another reason to believe that wine quality here is increasing, know that Champagne houses Pommery and Tattinger have both planted in the area.

 

Wineries in England

In the Kent/Sussex areas, there are over 400 vineyards growing grapes for wine and 200 producers making wine. In short, there’s a lot of choices to make. I visited these wineries in England in April of this year, and I am going to share with you my tips to make it a hassle-free experience. 

First off, decide if you are going to come for a day trip or a weekend trip. If you opt for a day trip, a visit to Gusbourne, a very popular winery, works out nicely, as they have half day experiences including a tasting, tour, plus lots of food. A great “one stop shop”.  Secondly, make a decision between the areas of Kent or Sussex. Trying to do both in a day or in a weekend is like trying to combine Napa and Sonoma. It’s virtually impossible and just too spread out. 

 

Planning Your Trip to Wineries in England

When planning your trip to English wine country, just remember that things move slower in the countryside, and adjust your expectations accordingly. This is a younger wine region than most, with the hospitality details literally being figured out as we speak. During my visit, I heard multiple people say that they are looking to the US for examples of hospitality best practices. I would allow at least 2 weeks (before arriving to the UK) to plan your trip. 

You have a couple options on how to structure your visit. You can do an organized trip with a tour company who will handle transport while there, winery visit appointments, and meals. This is a nice all-inclusive solution for those wanting to skip the planning process and just show up. Might I recommend Sussex Wine Tours. They were the first place I reached out to, but I had a specific itinerary I needed to follow, so a group trip didn’t work out. They did go over and above to help me find a private driver to execute my itinerary. I have no doubt their attention to detail translates to their tours as well. 

The other option (as I did) is to plan your own trip. The pro is that you’ll get to visit the exact places you want. But the con is that it takes some effort to plan (see my “2 week” comment above). Lots of pieces to try and pull together, different people to contact, etc. 

 

Getting to Wineries in England

Let me be clear: no ground transport option is “cheap” at the moment. Whether you rent a car or hire a driver. Like many countries, they are dealing with staffing/labor shortages and high gas prices. So prepared to spend some serious $$ to get around. 

For one, you can opt to rent a car in London proper and drive yourself to wine country. It’s about an hour or an hour and a half drive. You just have to be comfortable driving on the “wrong” side of the road and possibly on some unpaved country roads. 

If the prospect of renting a car in the UK is stressful, the train is a GREAT option to get from London to the wineries in England. The problem (like most trains to wine country) is that once you get to wine country, you will need a car, as everything is so spread out. And I was told repeatedly that replying on Uber or any other ridesharing app is virtually impossible. 

PRO TIP: When you buy your train tickets, read the fine print carefully so you know all of the fare rules. I am told if you purchase the incorrect fare type or ticket, the fines are steep! Trainline.com is where I procured my tickets. 

 

Hiring a Driver to Wineries in England

As for hiring private drivers, I have the TOP resources for you, whether you’re tasting in Kent or Sussex. I used both of them, had stellar experience, and I am so happy to share them with you. I private driver is exactly as it sounds. A car and driver for you…..all day! I found it so nice and relaxing. Especially as I was getting off of the train with my suitcase and what not. Plus, it’s so lovely to talk to a local in a relaxed, and comfortable setting.  

 

Your Private Driver in Kent

Married couple Claire and Matt run Biddenden Cars Ltd throughout the Kent area. They were both so friendly and we had some delightful conversations during our short journeys. They were even so kind as to hold me suitcase for the day, so that I wouldn’t have to lug it around the wineries.

 

Your Private Driver in Sussex

Dean was a DOLL and I fully enjoyed my day with him as my driver. His company is Hughes Chauffeurs and they have a fleet of 40 cars. They can handle things like single trips (such as a visit to only one winery) or a private hire for the day.

 

Things to Do When Visiting Wineries in England 

I stayed at the Little Silver Country Hotel in Tenterden and loved it! A quaint little country hotel/B&B with some really nice touches including an outdoor garden and a super comfortable and modern bathroom with a killer bathtub that I took full advantage of. I am told there are also lots of AirBnBs and really small country inns that are just charming. 

I found it to be VERY quiet and chill in most parts and I don’t get the vibe that this is a culinary destination. Each town appears to have a local watering hole and a few casual eateries. I was only there one night, so I didn’t get to explore too much. 

Note that both Brighton (on the coast) and Ashford (the local college town) are more happening spots and quite close to wineries in England. Lots more to do. Depending on what type of trip you want, this may or may not appeal to you. I was into the quiet countryside bed and breakfast type place and didn’t need “things to do.”

 

Wineries in England to Visit

On my trip to English wine country, I visited three wineries. Unfortunately, my planning wasn’t great (which is why I decided to write this post) and they were very spread out. Because of that, I wouldn’t recommend my exact visits as an “itinerary”. You can read my reviews of Stopham Vineyard, Ridgeview Wine Estate, and Gusbourne at my article on WineTourism.com

Come with patience. Be ready to slow down. Leave your city vibes in the city. Relax and enjoy English wine country. 

I hope you enjoyed this post. If you’re looking to Up Your Wine Game and Drink Better, consider booking a private in-person or virtual wine tasting experience.
Brianne Cohen Wine Educator
Brianne Cohen is a certified sommelier, wine educator, consultant, and writer based out of Los Angeles.

Since March 2020, Brianne has educated and entertained over 5,000 people through her “Virtual Vino” online wine tastings.

Brianne holds the WSET (Wine & Spirits Education Trust) Diploma certificate, one of the most coveted wine certifications in the world. When she’s not helping others Up Their Wine Game, she can be found judging at international wine competitions.

Brianne aims to make wine approachable and conversational, to surprise and delight with unexpected, distinctive wine finds, and to give people knowledge (and confidence) about wine in their everyday lives.

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