Until recently, we had no idea that there are over 200 vineyards across Great Britain that welcome visitors. We are not oenophiles but we enjoy a good wine experience. So, armed with this knowledge and our Wine Cellar Door directory app (our partners for this article), we set out to learn more about English wines and sample vintages from a variety of vineyards and winemakers. Here’s a selection of five wine experiences you can enjoy in Kent and suggestions for things to do around them.

Wine tourism in Kent

With a global pandemic raging in 2020, staycations gained more attention. Post-lockdown and with travel further afield still limited, we decided to seek out new local experiences. Someone we know suggested a visit to a local vineyard in Kent and so began our quest.

Five Vineyards to Visit in Kent

Our first experience of English wines was back in 2015 when we joined a group of fellow novices for a wine tasting and seafood pairing experience at Billingsgate Market, London. Since then, we have enjoyed a few of the more well known English Sparkling Wine labels.

However, wine tourism in the UK was never on our radar until we learned from the Wine Cellar Door directory (app free to download) that there are around 500 individual vineyards in Great Britain with around 50 of them located in Kent, our home county.

Most English producers make sparkling wine from Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier and Chardonnay, grape varieties typically associated with champagne. It turns out that the combination of a benign climate, enabling geology, and enthusiastic vintners can result in some really good wines.

Our curiosity turned into a late summer/early autumn road trip, seeking authentic experiences of British viticulture and vinification. From that trip, we’ve compiled this list (in no particular order) of five wine experiences you can enjoy in Kent, each one offering something different.

HDYTI Tip: During our visit, all the establishments below demonstrated compliance with the UK government’s Covid-19 safety guidelines

Download: Wine Cellar Door from Google Play and the App Store

Woodchurch Wine Estate

These days, the 13th century Kentish village of Woodchurch is home to a restored windmill overlooking the marshes towards the English Channel coast. This idyllic image is complemented by a well-kept village green, an ancient church and a jolly-looking English pub aptly named The Bonny Cravat.

However, our primary reason for being here was to visit the namesake wine estate, Woodchurch on the outskirts of the village.

We arrived early so that we could spend time with owners Graham and Donna Barbour.

Upstairs, from the tasting room (scheduled to fully open in 2021), the view from the balcony stretches over neatly planted rows of grapevines and into a forest of ancient oak trees before disappearing over the horizon into the sea.

Seeking to turn their passion into a business, visionaries Graham and Donna acquired the land in 2009. They planted their first vines a year later.

Ten years on, recognition of their hard work includes the title of ‘Kent Wine of the Year’ (for their Woodchurch Sparkling Rosé) at the 2020 Taste of Kent awards.

Our tasting session included the award-winning sparkling rose, the Classic Cuvée 2015, and Blanc de Blancs 2015 (click for tasting notes).

Location: Woodchurch, Kent

Closest train stations: Ashford International

Wine tasting and tours: See woodchurchwine.co.uk

Other highlights: Wine club members get automatic invitations to join the harvest.

What else is nearby: Stay local and grab a meal at one of the village pubs after your visit.

Terlingham Vineyard

We added Terlingham Vineyard to our list when we found out about their range of artisanal wines and use of natural farming techniques that eschew chemicals.

One of the smaller ones we visited, Terlingham Vineyard sits on four and a half acres in the village of Hawkinge near Folkestone and produces between 2,000 and 4,000 bottles per year.

After moving their family from South Africa to England, parents Graham and Lorna Wilks fell in love with the landscape and bought the property in 2011. With no prior winemaking experience, they educated themselves and teamed up with a leading winemaker and are now approaching their tenth year of operation.

Terlingham prides itself on their natural approach, with Lorna and her small team spending time getting really hands-on with tending the vines. Sustainability and eco-friendly practices create a thread which runs through their farming, production, and packaging.

Our wine-tasting experience (paired with a high-quality cheeseboard and cake) included their 2019 Bacchus (white), 2019 Manor Rosé, 2012 Sparkling Pink (rosé) and 2012 Sparkling Gold (rosé). We especially loved the rose gold colour and notes of honey of that last one.

Jackie, the eldest of three daughters, explained that the perfect growing conditions in 2018 have resulted in a high-quality red wine which is on schedule to be available by Christmas 2020.

Location: Hawkinge, Kent

Closest train stations: Folkestone Central

Wines tastings and tours: See terlinghamvineyard.co.uk

Other highlights: Bed & Breakfast available. Picturesque views of the English Channel. Wellness retreats.

What else is nearby: Folkestone beach and Romney Marsh. Check out Folkestone’s local arts and theatre scene.

Squerryes Wine Estate

When we found Squerryes Wine Estate via the Wine Cellar Door app, we were immediately drawn to their ‘Picnic in the Vines’ outdoor experience.

After months of lockdown, enjoying a socially-distanced and semi-private picnic surrounded by the beauty of a vineyard on the Kent Downs felt both liberating and refreshing. 

Couple enjoying Picnic in the Vines at Squerryes Wine Estate, Westerham, Kent

Squerryes is a 2,500-acre wine estate which was first planted with vines in 2006. Ten years later, their Brut 2016 Vintage Reserve (43% Chardonnay with notes of green apples and pears) tells the story of their journey from grower to award-winning English Sparkling Wine producer.

Our Picnic in the Vines (starting at £44p.p for a party of two to three people) hamper included the 2016 Brut as well as a tasty selection of cold meats, sandwiches, seasonal vegetables, cheeses and bread (gluten-free options were available on request).

Location: Westerham, Kent

Closest train stations: Oxted

Wine tastings and tours: See squerryes.co.uk

Other highlights: Open all year. Terrace dining. Picnic in the vines (summer only). Exclusive offers for wine club members.

What else is nearby: Chartwell House, the home of Sir Winston Churchill.

West Fisher Winery

There’s more to English wines than the sparkling variety the industry is famous for. Spend just a few minutes with part-time architect and self-taught owner of West Fisher Winery, Simon Fisher and you’ll come away much more knowledgable about the UK’s wine industry.

Couple outside at West Fisher Winery, Chelsham, Kent

An existential moment in 2007 convinced Simon to turn what was an interest/hobby into a serious venture. Since 2009, West Fisher has developed long-term relationships with several smaller growers and vineyards and produced their wines. 

West Fisher’s own labels (sparkling and still) include blends of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier, Rondo, Bacchus, Reichensteiner and Seyval Blanc grape varieties. The Westfisher Springfield Brut was our top choice.

Although West Fisher is not a vineyard, we’ve added this artisanal winemaker to our list because of their creativity and their attractive price point for wines and tours and tastings. 

Location: Chelsham, Kent

Closest train stations: Taxi from Bromley South or Orpington

Wines tastings only: Visit westfisher.co.uk

Other highlights: The impressive driveway leading up to the old stables where the winery operates makes for a grand entrance.

What else is nearby: Aviation geeks will enjoy spotting World War Two Spitfires taking off from nearby Biggin Hill airport.

Gusbourne Estate

An appreciation of the local history helps in understanding why the Gusbourne Estate selected this location for growing grapes used in their wines. 

Wine tasting at Gusbourne Estate, Appledore, Kent

Before the 13th century, the nearest village, Appledore, was a port on the estuary of the River Rother. However, natural events caused the river to change course, creating a warm and dry microclimate on the edge of the Romney Marsh and close enough to the English Channel to enjoy coastal breezes. 

These naturally occurring factors contribute to the exciting selection of wines offered by Gusbourne. Each vintage is carefully crafted to tell the story of ‘time and place’, embodying the conditions that led to its creation.  

One of the more well known English Sparkling wine producers, a recent deal with Japan Airways to sell its sparkling wines in the airline’s first-class lounges is a sign of Gusbourne’s global ambition.

During our wine tasting, we were introduced to their flagship 2014 Blanc de Blancs, 2016 Brut Reserve, 2016 Rosé and 2018 Chardonnay Guinevere.

Location: Appledore, near Ashford

Closest train stations: Appledore (12 mins from Ashford International)

Wines tastings and tours: See gusbourne.com

Other highlights: The Nest wine tasting room. Self-guided walking tour. Late-night openings (August only). Vineyard picnics.

What else is nearby: Shopping at the Ashford Designer Outlet

Are you curious about English Wines and vineyards?

On our own journey, we’ve met passionate growers, enthusiastic vineyard owners, talented testers, and visionary winemakers and producers.

Although we’ve highlighted just five wine experiences in this article, we have many more stories from our ongoing experience of English wines. 

To discover more English wines and the vineyards where all good wine stories begin, stick with us.

Read next: “Planning a road trip to visit vineyards in the UK”.

Download Wine Cellar Door

Available on both Google and Apple app stores, the Wine Cellar Door app helps you find vineyards closest to you.

Pin: Five Wine Experiences in Kent

Wine Experiences in Kent, England
Co-Founders & Curators at HDYTI

Eulanda & Omo Osagiede are London-based freelance writers and award-winning social influencers who run the popular travel, food, and lifestyle blog HDYTI (Hey! Dip your toes in).