Award-winning vineyards when you visit East of England
The East of England is one of the driest and sunniest parts of the country and has pockets of land perfect for growing grapes. In recent years vineyards have sprung up across the region and local winemakers are making a big impression in the industry.
A decade ago, Ben and Hannah Witchell quit their jobs and travelled to some of the most famous winemaking regions in the world. Now they manage Flint Vineyard at Earsham on the Norfolk-Suffolk border. Inbetween Ben did a three year degree in Oenology and Viticulture at Plumpton College, graduating with a first-class degree, and worked in winemaking in Beaujolais, before the couple returned to the UK to begin their own vineyard.
Tours include the 15 Mile Lunch, where you can enjoy cheese, charcuterie and bread from artisan businesses close to the vineyard.
Chilford Hall Vineyard
The first grape vines were planted here in 1972, in the rolling chalk hills of the Cambridgeshire Downs, making this one of the oldest-established vineyards in England.
The vineyard, which has a visitor centre and offers tours, has nine varieties of grape amongst 17,000 vines including Dornfelder, Regent, Rondo, Pinot Noir and Ortega.
Chet and Waveney Valley Vineyard
Winemaker John Hemmant and his wife Bridget diversified from farming to plant a vineyard close to the sunny and secluded village of Bergh Apton. They produce an award-winning English sparkling wine as well as white and rose wines. There are vineyard tours and tastings of his hand-crafted Norfolk wines, with Norfolk cheese and charcuterie, and you can even holiday on the vineyard, renting the aptly-named Vine House.
Winbirri’s owner, grower and winemaker Lee Dyer earned national headlines when his Bacchus 2015 won a prestigious Platinum – Best in Show award at the 2017 Decanter World Wine Awards. As well as Bacchus, the Surlingham vineyard grows Seyval Blanc and Solaris, Pinot Noir and some lesser-know red varieties that work well in the Norfolk climate.
Tours are taken by Lee who explains the history of the vineyards, the methods used and the reasons for the grapes grown.
One of the best-established vineyards in the East of England, Wyken is an ancient estate once occupied by the Romans and recorded in Domesday and set in quintessential Suffolk countryside with winding country lanes, hedgerows, fields and woodlands. The 1200-acre farm includes a 7-acre vineyard producing award-winning wines, a flock of Shetland sheep, the Leaping Hare restaurant, country store, formal gardens by the Elizabethan manor house and regular farmers’ market.
Dedham Vale Vineyard
Set in 40 acres of vines, woods and pasture in an area of outstanding natural beauty, Dedham Vale is on the Essex Way with lots of beautiful countryside and picturesque villages to explore in Constable Country. There are year-round events.
West Street Vineyard
West Street at Coggeshall opened its doors on St George’s Day 2013 and in May 2017 it was elected as the only East of England Gold Medal winner of the Cellar Door Awards from the world-renowned International Wine Challenge.
As well as tours there’s a wine school with various workshops and a restaurant that serves brunch through to supper.
Valley Farm Vineyard
Nestling in the Waveney Valley not far from Southwold, the vineyard is co-owned and worked by Elaine and Vanessa who are proud to contribute to the eclectic local food and drink scene and love to share with visitors their viticulture and oenology anecdotes.
Crouch Ridge Vineyard
Ross and Samantha Lonergan’s vineyard is set in the beautiful village of Althorne Essex overlooking the river Crouch. 5th generation farmers, the couple saw the opportunity to plant 10 acres of vines in an area with long hours of sunshine, low rainfall and low risk of frost.
More recently their have diversified with holiday accommodation.
Mersea Island Vineyard
Situated on the estuaries of the Blackwater and Colne rivers, the vineyard was established in 1985 and has five grape varieties in 10 acres. The site also has a café, brewery and holiday accommodation.
New Hall Vineyard
The first vines, 850 Reichensteiners, were planted in 1969 by Bill and Sheila Greenwood and were joined by 2800 Huxelrebe and Muller Thurgau vines the following week. It’s been a family affair since and in 2016 it was the UKVA Winemaker of the Year.
Set in over 100 acres of vines, the vineyard has tours, tastings and special events.
Cambridgeshire Wine School
Not a vineyard, but another way to whet your appetite might be enjoy wine tasting and wine courses in the beautiful university city of Cambridge. An independent wine education company, Cambridgeshire Wine School offers a range of tastings including a Saturday Intro to Wine which includes lunch and champagne and the opportunity to improve your confidence buying wine.