English wine enjoys tourism boom

Sam Wylie-Harris
To champion UK wine tourism, seven Kent wineries are promoting a vino trail in southern England

Could Kent be the next Cape? Well, if the excitement around the British wine industry is anything to go by, then yes.

To champion the county's wine tourism, seven Kentish wineries have joined forces with Visit Kent to form The Wine Garden of England and encourage tipplers to enjoy a wine country escape in our own Napa Valley, rather than the Cape Winelands, South Africa, or Barossa Valley, Australia.

Biddenden Vineyards, Chapel Down, Domaine Evremond, Gusbourne, Hush Heath Estate, Simpsons Wine Estate and Squerryes have created a wine trail experience, where visitors can taste a huge range of award-winning wines, while learning more about the picturesque vineyards.

Here's what you need to know about each to stroll, sip and have a "vine" time ...

1. Biddenden Vineyards (biddendenvineyards.com)

The oldest vineyard in Kent and first to plant grapes in 1969, Biddenden celebrates its 50th birthday next year. At the former apple orchard, guests can sample the award-winning Gribble Bridge Sparkling Wines and learn how they produce their famous Strong Kentish Cider and farm-pressed apple juices.

2. Chapel Down (chapeldown.com)

Chapel Down is an official wine supplier to 10 Downing Street and its wines are served in Michelin-star restaurants such as Michel Roux Jr's Le Gavroche and Raymond Blanc's Le Manoir aux Quat'Saisons. Along with a stunning selection of wines and spirits, there's an on-site Michelin-recommended restaurant, The Swan Wine Kitchen.

3. Domaine Evremond (domaineevremond.com)

Champagne Taittinger and Kent-based Domaine Evremond planted their first vines in May last year, so drinkers will have to wait until 2023 for the first wine to be released. Domaine Evremond, which uses the traditional grape varieties of chardonnay, pinot noir and meunier, is the first champagne house to plant vines in Kent.

4. Gusbourne (gusbourne.com)

On a 14th-century estate previously owned by the de Goosebourne family, their crest of three geese can be seen in the local parish church and a goose crest adorns every bottle. Named English wine producer 2017 at the International Wine & Spirits Competition, Gusbourne recently opened its luxurious and architecturally stunning tasting room, The Nest.

5. Hush Heath Estate (hushheath.com)

Along with its prized Balfour Brut Rose (the first English sparkling wine to be serve on British Airways First Class), its portfolio also includes sparkling whites and still wines. Head to Hush Heath in July when it opens its new winery and visitor centre and you'll be rewarded with glorious views of the vineyard and woodlands from the balcony of the new 100-person tasting room.

6. Simpsons Wine Estate (simpsonswine.com)

Simpsons has teamed up with Barretts Jaguar Land Rover to offer guests a "Snapshot of the Simpsons Winery", which includes a tour of the vineyards in a four-wheel drive, a glass of the newly released The Roman Road Chardonnay in The Glass House Tasting Room, and a trip down a helter-skelter slide (Fruit Chute) to take you back to the winery.

7. Squerryes (squerryes.co.uk)

As well as producing sparkling wines, the Wardes are eighth-generation owners of Squerryes Court and visitors can also tour their stunning home, where some of the walls are decorated with art by the likes of Rubens and van Dyck.