English wine is famous for being a slightly odd-ball choice.
But what about the weird and wonderful vineyards it comes from?
From wallabies to a hobbit house, these wineries are well worth a visit… and it can’t hurt to pick up a few bottles while you’re there.
Simpsons Wine Estate
Where: Canterbury, Kent
In a bid to dilute the stuffiness often associated with wine tasting, the owners of this Kent-based vineyard, Ruth and Charles Simpson, have injected a bit of extra fun into the experience by incorporating a helter-skelter into their Glass House tasting room.
After you’ve sampled their still and sparkling whites, rosés and Rabbit Hole pinot noir, jump in a sack and whizz down the ‘fruit chute’ to the winery to find out more about how they’re made.
Yes, it might make you feel even dizzier…
Where: Horsham, West Sussex
At the Grade I listed Leonardslee Gardens, near Horsham, plantings of the South African grape pinotage sit among 240 stunning acres of lakes, woodlands and… a wallaby farm.
The wallabies were introduced by Victorian plant collector Sir Edmund Loder in 1889. They are thought to be Bennett’s wallabies from Tasmania.
Visit between noon and 12.30pm daily and you’ll get to see the feeding of the wallabies and their joeys in the maternity enclosure, which sits next to the vineyard.
Where: Painshill, Cobham, Surrey
Fans of Netflix series Bridgerton may recognise this magnificent 18th-century landscape garden, as the park was featured in episode three of the series, based on Julia Quinn’s best-selling novels.
And if you were beady-eyed, you may have also spotted a few vines. Painshill’s vineyard is tiny by commercial standards but it is thought to be one of England’s oldest – Charles Hamilton, who created Painshill in the 1700s, planted pinot noir and pinot meunier grapes here to experiment with wine-making.
As well as the follies, which include one called the Temple of Bacchus and a Gothic Temple, there’s a Crystal Grotto, a recreation of the estate’s 18th-century Turkish Tent.
Where: Bentley, Hampshire
The Grade II listed William and Mary house, which dominates the family-run Jenkyn Place vineyard, is renowned as one of the UK’s spookiest places.
‘As far as we believe, we have three ghosts,’ says Camilla Jennings, whose father, Simon Bladon, owns the vineyard. ‘A lady on the bridge who drops coins, which sounds highly anti-social and wasteful; a phantom carriage which goes through the vineyard’s front gates, even when they are closed; and a ghost on the top floor of our home in my younger brother’s bedroom.’
It’s unlikely you’ll visit the vineyard at night but if so, you may spot something curious floating along the pristine rows of chardonnay.
Where: Robertsbridge, East Sussex
Deep in the heart of the Rother Valley, nestled among grapevines on the Oastbrook Estate, sits a cottage fit for Frodo.
Like something from a Tolkien novel, the tiny wooden hideaway is buried into a bank and features a grass roof.
Vineyard owners America and Nick Brewer built the aptly named Hobbit House after their plans to build tree-house accommodation on site were turned down by the council.
The house has its own private garden and hot tub overlooking the surrounding vineyards.
Need some more English vineyard inspo? Check out these wines…
Lowick Vineyard is located in Northamptonshire and produced its first vintage in 2015, with results instantly garnering praise.
Look out for its new 2018 Peony Blush rosé (£13), which was released this summer.
Making wine from ‘a grungy estate in south London’ (his own words) is ex-sommelier Sergio Verrillo of Blackbook in Battersea.
Try his 2019 Nightjar pinot noir, using grapes planted in Essex (£19).
If you like natural wine, seek out bottles from grower Ingrid Bates of Dunleavy, based in Somerset’s Yeo Valley. She uses sustainable agricultural practices to produce her multi-award-winning rosé and sparkling wines.
More on English Wine Week (June 19-27) on their website.
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