South East England

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Biddenden Vineyards

Originally the site of cider orchards, Kent’s oldest commercial winery also produces good cider and apple juice. Set in a beautiful location near the Wealden village of Biddenden, half way between Royal Tunbridge Wells and Ashford, admission to this well-established vineyard is free, as is tasting in the well-stocked shop. You can follow a couple of well-marked routes around the 22 acres of vines in this 70-acre estate, or get together a group for a guided tour or vineyard supper visit. 

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Bolney Wine Estate

Tucked down the appropriately named Foxhole Lane 14 miles north of Brighton is one of English wine’s dynasties. Second generation Sam Linter is making a name for herself as one of the brightest winemakers of the noughties, but it was her parents, Rodney and Jean Pratt who took the leap of faith in the 1970s and set up Bolney Wine Estate at Bookers Vineyard.

Bolney is by no means huge, but every member of staff counts. Surrounded by sheep-clad, softly undulating hills, your guide for the day is likely to be someone who’s had a link with the winery for years, and this shows in the quality of your tour and the warmth of their welcome.

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Bothy Vineyard

A boutique vineyard in the truest sense of the word, visit Bothy Vineyard if you would like to see artisan winemaking done in a highly sustainable manner. Located in the scenic Vale of the White Horse, some seven miles south-west of Oxford, the vineyard was originally planted by the pioneering Roger and Dorothea Fisher in the late 1970s. Sian and Richard Liwicki took over in 2002, having previously been volunteers at harvest time.

With just five acres and a small but well-equipped winery, a visit gives a chance to speak to the Liwickis about their many environmental initiatives.

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Brightwell Vineyard

Nowhere is location for grape growing more important than in marginal climates, and England certainly qualifies as that, even with a dose of global warming. So, the fact that Brightwell Vineyard happens to be located in the Upper Thames Bowl, with the River Thames to its north, and various hill surrounding it to the south all adds up to Good News. These factors puts the vineyard, just eight miles from Oxford, in one of the driest spots in the UK.

Couple this with the determination of Bob and Carol Nielsen, and it’s no wonder this small vineyard is making some popular wines.

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Brogdale Farm

Brogdale Farm plays host to the gem that is the National Fruit Collection. Within an hour or so of London you can visit the world's largest collection of fruit trees and plants.

Open daily throughout the summer, take advantage of daily guided tours, lasting about an hour. Or visit during the week in the winter. On the guided tours, your guide will pluck the latest apple, cherry or plum off the tree for you to try.

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Chapel Down Winery

Chapel Down based in Tenterden Kent is one of the UK's longest established wineries and makes for a great day out. With its enchanting walled herb garden, extensive shop, in addition to its vineyards and wines, the little Kentish village of Tenterden has quite a draw in its midst.

Underneath – because that's where it all begins – there's a chalk seam akin to that found underneath Champagne which holds the key to the wines' quality and success over the years.

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Dark Star Brewing Co.

The Dark Star Brewing company began its life in the mid-90s in the cellar of The Evening Star pub in Brighton, where their constantly changing range of seasonal beers proved so popular that by 2001 they realised it was high time to move into a purpose-built brewery outside the city.

Named after an early Grateful Dead classic, Dark Star are now situated in the village of Partridge Green, just west of Horsham, where visitors can team a Saturday visit to the brewery with a leisurely lunch in their brewery tap, The Partridge, only a few hundred yards away.

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Denbies Wine Estate

Hundreds of events draw over 350,000 visitors a year to Denbies, England’s largest winery in a single spot. Set in the rolling Surrey hills, within minutes of Dorking town centre, casual visitors are catered for with both an indoor and outdoor tour and tasting. Highlights include the initial 360° surround vision film and the outdoor vineyard “train” which chugs along the paths.

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Harveys of Lewes

Founded in 1790 and Sussex's oldest independent brewery, Harveys is almost synonymous with the delightful market town of Lewes. Once the font of revolution – the free-thinker and US founding father Thomas Paine spent six formative years here – more recently Lewes became a pioneer of local sustainability. It was one of the first towns to have a regular farmers' market in the 1990s, and Harveys' head brewer, Miles Jenner, steadfastly sticks to buying its raw materials from local growers, and restricts distribution of his beers to a 60 mile radius of the brewery.

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Hook Norton

Step back in time when you reach Hook Norton brewery in rural Oxfordshire. After all, this is widely regarded as the best example of a working Victorian tower brewery, the whole affair is powered by a green giant of a steam engine, and beer is delivered locally by shire horses.

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Hush Heath Estate

Hard to believe that the vines at Hush Heath estate are less than ten years old so much has been written about the wine produced. But then owner Richard Balfour-Lynn always had his sights set high – "I want to make the best rosé in the world," he says with focused determination at his winery's official opening.

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Lurgashall Winery

Housed in a complex of 17th and 19th century rustic farm buildings on a 38-acre estate, the Lurgashall Winery is a family-run business specialising in fruit wines and meads. However, inside, it's anything but rustic, being self-contained with fermentation, maturation and bottling vats, and modern, high quality equipment in a sterile bottling room and fully equipped laboratory – all elements of the process that will be learned about when taking a tour around the facility.

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Maynard House Orchards

Maynard House Orchards XXXXXX  Maynard House Orchards is a family run business that uses local fruit to produce high quality, deeply flavoured apple juice.

Silverware

  • Cox Apple Juice – 2011, Two Stars at The Great Taste Awards
  • Bramley Apple Juice – 2011, Two Stars at The Great Taste Awards
  • Maynard House Orchards - 2010 National Fruit Show, Second Prize overall

Annual events

Maynard House runs farm and production tours at harvest time (booking essential).

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Meopham Valley Vineyard

Two decades on, Meopham Valley Vineyard – set up by David and Pauline Grey with the help of English wine authority Gillian Pearkes – continues to do well, particularly with its sparkling wines.

This two-hectare vineyard produces both still and sparkling of all hues. Although there is no winery on site, hundreds of visitors are welcomed each year for tours and tasting. Meopham Valley is also happy to produce a bespoke cuvée appropriately labelled for special occasions like weddings.

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New Forest Cider

New Forest Cider is located handily on the main road going south from the beautiful village of Burley. A family business, your main chance to see how cider used to be made is their annual open weekend in October. There the Workman steam-driven press will be brought out, alongside an antique twin hand screw press. Other traditional craft demos on show include a blacksmith and a wheelwright, plus traditional fairground attractions and apple displays.

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Plumpton College

Set in a beautiful location with striking views of the South Downs, Plumpton College is technically part of the University of Brighton. The Wine Studies Centre produces and sells award-winning wine in its own right and, with its highly knowledgeable, friendly staff, it is worth paying a visit on one of its open days.

Or get a group together – minimum size 10 – and take your own bespoke tour, finishing in one of the fine pubs nearby, perhaps in the artistic village of Ditchling.

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RidgeView Estate

As its name suggests, RidgeView Estate nestles within the South Downs on a gentle slope with views of the ridge which includes Ditchling Beacon as its highest point.

From the start in the mid-1990s, Mike and Christine Roberts' focus has been on sparkling wine, the rationale being that the underlying soil is similar to that in the Champagne region. Ever since its first release won Wine of the Year in the 2000 English & Welsh Wine Competition, the family have been clocking up the awards at an alarming rate.

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Ringwood Brewery

Founder of Ringwood, Peter Austin, is credited by many as the "father of micro-brewing" for his pioneering approach and his influence over the years on the next generation of craft-brewers. Having spent several decades with Hull Brewery, he headed south to strike out on his own. He landed up on the edge of the New Forest and opened for business in the small market town of Ringwood in 1978.

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Rough Old Wife Cidery

Rough Old Wife is a family-friendly cidery and they welcome anyone who would like to join in the fun of apple picking, loading, barrelling or pressing. They have an on-site B&B and their very own farm cottage to let for people who are interested in making a holiday of helping out at the cidery.

Tours explain the day to day operation of the working artisanal cidery, the traditional fermentation methods and the methods of maturation in oak barrels.

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Sedlescombe Organic Vineyard

Head down to rural East Sussex for your chance to meet one of the UK's true eco-pioneers. Not only the first organic vineyard, but as of late 2010, Sedlescombe is home to the UK's first biodynamic vineyard.

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Shepherd Neame

A visit to Shepherd Neame takes you "through the heart of the working brewery… from hop to handpump". No brewery knows more about what each ingredient adds to the mix – but then they have been at it since 1698.

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Stanlake Park Wine Estate

Located within 20 minutes of both Henley and Windsor is the historic estate of Stanlake Park. With roots back to 1166 and a manor house dating to the late 16th century, you might expect a barrel of airs and graces. Far from it, Peter and Annette Dart took over in 2005 and have created a welcoming tasting room and well-stocked Cellar Shop alongside the estate's 30-year old wine business and beautiful gardens.

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Stopham Vineyard

Simon Woodhead used to work in Formula One racing. Now he's overseeing his young vineyard as it heads towards full production. Planted in 2007 with a selection weighted towards his favoured region, Alsace, the first full harvest took place in 2010.

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Stopham Vineyard

Simon Woodhead used to work in Formula One racing. Now he's overseeing his young vineyard as it heads towards full production. Planted in 2007 with a selection weighted towards his favoured region, Alsace, the first full harvest took place in 2010.

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Terlingham Vineyard

One of the UK's smallest vineyard with its own wineries, Terlingham Winery also boasts B&B with three attractive rooms at the winery. Wine tasting and vineyard walks iare also welcome, with prior arrangements.

Perched above Charles Newington's Kent emblem overlooking the North Downs near the historic Kent village of Hawkinge, vines were planted in 2006, with Bacchus, Rondo and Dornfelder joining the Champagne trio, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier.

Trade bodies

UK Vineyard Association, Produced in Kent

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The Chiltern Brewery

Run by brothers George and Tom Jenkinson, The Chiltern Brewery is the oldest independent micro brewery in Bucks and the Chilterns. Founded in 1980 by their father and mother, Richard and Lesley Jenkinson, its emphasis is on age-old production methods and British ingredients.

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The White Swan

Perhaps it's because of its seafaring nature, Portsmouth isn't short of a fine pub or two. So The White Swan in its previous Wetherspoon guise was one of several fine hostelries.

Now it's gone one step better though – it's installed a gleaming brewkit, centre-stage, right by the door as you go in.

What's more, not only can you watch the brewers at work, headed by talented Mark Wainwright, you can join in. Next time you are in, ask about the B&K Brewery Day Experience.

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Triple fff Brewing Company

Triple fff was founded in 1997 by Graham Trott, cabinet-maker by day, home brewer by night. Appropriately enough, he sited his brewery in an ex-furniture factory unit, on the road leading to the steam heritage Watercress Line. Music influenced both his choice of name, triple fff being the strong note – louder… louder… louder – and his first few brews, including Stairway inspired by, yes, you guessed it, Led Zeppelin.

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Upton Cider Company

Sixteen acres of orchards with 3000 trees and 10 varieties of apples provide Robert and Val Fitchett with their ingredients for their artisanal products. Originally the orchard provided fruit to the Taunton Cider company. In 1983 the founder, the late Stan Lynch, decided to make his own cider, and Upton was born. Val worked with Stan in the late 1990s, taking over the business in 1999.

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Westerham Brewery

Located in a picturesque old dairy building belonging to the National Trust, Westerham brewery is presided over by owner and head brewer Robert Wicks, who established the operation in 2004.

Wicks is big on eco-credentials, and you’ll learn about all of them on a tour around the brewery. Westerham Brewery supports the organic hop garden at nearby Scotney Castle (also a lovely place to visit if you’re in the area) and can lay claim to launching one of the first Fairtrade beers on draught – William Wilberforce Freedom Ale.

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Wychwood Brewery

Near the medieval forest of Wych Wood on the edge of the market town of Witney you'll find the home of Hobgoblin, a creature of legend with a fanbase the world over.  The home of Britain’s third bestselling bottled premium beer, Wychwood Brewery receives thousands of visitors, a fifth from outside these shores, and interest is never greater than at Hallowe'en.

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