The United Kingdom is known around the world for its beer, and with good reason. But did you know that the UK has been making wine since before the time of the Romans? However, despite strides made in viticulture, production fell in the late Middle Ages as monasteries disappeared and the Black Death wreaked havoc on the workforce.
Even when wine production resurged, it was eventually affected by World War II, when vinicultural fields were converted to agriculture to feed the population.
Despite these historic setbacks, winemaking in the United Kingdom has made a comeback in recent years, with award-winning wines coming from its dedicated, innovative vintners. Check out the following list of three outstanding wineries in the United Kingdom.
Located in Cornwall, Camel Valley has been producing both still and sparkling wines for nearly 30 years. Shortly after its inception, the winery began to garner awards, with its first two in 1993 for the previous year’s Seyval Dry.
Among the many milestones achieved by Camel Valley, perhaps the most important is the Gold Medal at the 2005 International Wine Challenge for its 2001 Sparkling Brut. This award stands out because Camel Valley’s wine was competing with some of the best in the world. Not only was it the lone non-Champenoise wine to win a gold medal, but it was Britain’s sole gold that year.
Camel Valley’s current wine offerings include the 2016 Pinot Noir Rosé Brut and the 2014 White Pinot Noir, the latter of which took home the Silver Medal at the 2018 International Wine Challenge. Still-wine lovers can try the 2016 Camel Valley Bacchus Dry, a pale lime-green wine that features hints of tangerine and mango.
Chapel Down Winery
Chapel Down Winery sources its grapes from its vineyards across Kent, one of the most ideal regions for grape growing in the United Kingdom. In fact, Kent sits some 90 miles north of France’s Champagne region and benefits from the same fertile chalk soil, allowing the winery to produce its high-quality sparkling wines.
Chapel Down produces such great wine that it has become the main supplier of wine to Downing Street, replacing Champagne. Further, it is Oxford & Cambridge Boat Races’ official partner, and its sparkling wine will be provided to every race winner. The winery is also England’s first wine producer to appear on the London Stock Exchange’s list of 1,000 Companies to Inspire Britain.
Chapel Down Winery produces its famous sparkling wines according to the Méthode Traditionelle, the French winemaking method that allows the bubbles to naturally develop in the bottle. In recognition of the quality of these wines, Chapel Down won the Gold Outstanding award for its Kit’s Coty Coeur de Cuvée 2013 and the Gold award for its Kit’s Coty Blanc de Blanc 2013 at the 2018 International Wine & Spirits Competition.
Visitors can sample these and other wines at the Swan Restaurant, which is situated on the winery’s estate. The daily menu includes a diverse menu of entrees, including venison haunch with smoked carrot puree, pork belly, stone bass filet, and poached Gigha halibut.
Bolney Wine Estate
Located just 14 miles from the south coast of the UK just one the edge of the South Downs, Bolney Wine Estate has over 40 years of experience in winemaking. This Sussex County winery is famous for its award-winning 2017 vintage Pinot Noir, which features notes of red cherry and cedar wood.
Bolney Wine Estate also makes excellent sparkling wines using the Méthode Traditionelle, including the Blanc de Blancs Magnum, which features floral notes and yellow fruit character. The winery also produces three Rosé wines and four still white wines, including a Pinot Gris with aromas of apple, citrus, pear, and grapefruit.
Bolney Wine Estate pairs its wines with carefully selected food at its restaurant, The Eighteen Acre, serving breakfast, lunch, and appetizers. Visitors can choose from a diverse menu of starters and tapas, including sautéed Anya potatoes with pesto, roast squash and feta, and tenderstem broccoli with horseradish mayo panko.
Those looking for a selection of cheeses to go with Bolney’s wines can choose the Sussex cheese and charcuterie board, which pairs local meats and cheeses with chutney and campainou bread. Finally, the menu’s more substantial items include the Bolney Ploughman’s, a pork pie served with pickles, cheese, and bread.
The above three wineries offer just an introduction to the UK’s wine culture. While production in the UK is not as prolific as in neighboring France or other countries in Europe, winemakers here are producing wines that rival theirs. Before visiting, be sure to research the latest vintages to learn about the most recent harvest and begin selecting the wines that most appeal to your unique taste profile so that you get the most of your trip to UK wine country.