Most wine connoisseurs will have made the pilgrimage to the vineyards of France, some to the vine-growing regions of Italy, Germany and California, others as far as Chile and South Africa. But not many oenophiles will have taken a wine tour around the UK to discover more about British wine.
Even as I write, I can imagine the general scoffing at the idea of visiting UK wineries, and ten years ago I might even have agreed, but things have changed. There are a number of great wines coming out of the UK today, and if you want to be amongst the vanguard championing British wine then I’d like to suggest a tour for you.
Some of our best produce is coming not from the mainland (although there is some great stuff being made there too) but from the islands around the UK which are taking advantage of their own microclimates and distinctive terroir to create unique flavours and bouquets.
Here is my list of the islands to visit and the places to go once you get there.
Saint Martin’s in the Scilly Isles
Set off the southwest shores of Cornwall, the Scilly Isles benefit from one of the warmest climates in the British Isles. It is thanks to this that its wine production is also one of the best. The family-run St Martin’s Vineyard has been one of the leading producers to take advantage of the landscape and temperatures of the island to create their own fantastic range.
Established in 1996, the vineyard grows a range of grapes from Madeline Angevine and Seyval Blanc to Reichensteiner and Siegerrebe, and makes all of its own produce in a stone barn at the back of the property. You can enjoy a guided tour and, of course, a tasting of some of the best offerings; make sure you visit the farm shop while you’re here.
To get a really good overview of the kind of vintages grown on the island, I would recommend staying at the Star Castle Hotel. Not only is the Elizabethan Castle a beautiful building in a stunning location, but the award-winning restaurants serve bottles from their own vineyard.
Jersey in the Channel Islands
Jersey, with its warm continental climate, has long been a shining light in the British wine industry so it’s definitely a place to put on your UK vineyard tour. One of the most prestigious estates on the island is the La Mare Estate which grows a wide variety of grapes from Huxelrebe, Schonburger and Reichensteiner to Seyval Blanc, Pinot Noir and Pinot Blanc. Fresh from recent glory at the International Wines and Spirits Competition – at which it won three awards for its sparkling varieties – the staff here offer regular tasting tours of the vineyard and production process.
For a gastronomic pairing treat stay at the Grand Jersey Hotel & Spa, where the sommelier will suggest local varieties to pair with its seasonal dishes at the 3AA Rosette restaurant.
Sark in the Channel Islands
Another island taking advantage of the continental climate of the Channel Islands is Sark. Nestled between Guernsey and Jersey, Sark is home to the Rosemary Vineyard. Covering 30 acres with a range of grapes, it produces a wonderful variety of sparkling, reds and whites. Free tours are offered from Saturday to Tuesday, or if you prefer to taste their produce in a relaxed elegant setting you can book in for lunch and a free tasting.
Stay at Stocks Sark Island Hotel and Restaurant and you can enjoy fine dining with an excellent variety of homemade wines.
British wine has so much to offer that it is worth exploring close to home to discover the wonderful varieties produced on our own shores.
John Dixon is an experienced world traveller and the Managing Director of Prestige Holidays. For over 30 years, he has been providing luxury holidays all over the Mediterranean, as well as holidays in Bermuda, Croatia and many other destinations around the globe. John tries to visit each of the destinations regularly in order to ensure the quality of his properties, and as a result is an expert on topics as diverse as British wine and Moroccan culture. He has a taste for the finer things in life and has an interest in arts and history.