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A wine weekend in Hampshire

Visiting vineyards and discovering wines on tours and tastings are best served with a side of sunshine. Summer is when vines are at their most bountiful, green and lush, nurturing their bundles of joy as they ripen in the sun.

Renowned for Downton Abbey, Jane Austen, Winchester Cathedral and the rolling North and South Downs, what may come as a surprise is Hampshire is also home to more than 30 vineyards, many producing some of the UK’s most award-worthy wines.

Yes, wine tourism is still in its infancy in England, the benefit of which is the chance to get up close to the makers and shakers in the industry. Visit a vineyard in the UK and you could meet the wine makers or owners, a rarity in the typically exclusive world of wines elsewhere. What’s more fun than a day out finding out how the humble grape turns into a mighty wine from the wine makers themselves, boots muddy from a day outside, hands ruddy from working with vines or stained red from sampling their wares? It’s the passionate, unpretentious faces behind our local wine that put that extra sparkle in the glass.

Discovering wines is best poured over a relaxing weekend in the country and we were recently privileged to spend a day exploring the vineyards of Hampshire.

Here’s a little taster of what you can find in Hampshire’s barrel of vineyard experiences.

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The Grange

Truth be told, there isn’t a cellar door at this vineyard yet, so tours and tastings are a little rustic. But rustic is authentic and authentic means walking the vineyards with one of the founder’s, wine glass in hand.

It was in 2011 that four siblings came together to plant a vineyard on their family estate. Each with a career outside farming, the benefit of their unique approach is a diversity of tastes and palates.

In only three years since their first wine release, The Grange has been awarded a platinum, five gold and fourteen silver medals in national and international wine competitions, with each bottle selling out within a year of release.

We tried the Pink Sparkling, and it was so good we added to it our seasonal round up of our favourite wines – take a look here for tasting notes.

Book ahead and enjoy two types of guided tours, at just £20 per person. One takes place during the day and includes a walk around the vineyard followed by a tasting of current wines. This 1 ½ hour experience is limited to 12 people. The evening tour can accommodate a slightly larger group, and includes a sunset and canapés to complement the wines.

thegrangewine.co.uk

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Raimes Vineyard

Winding alongside the River Itchen into the stunning village of Tichborne, you’ll find yourself greeted by the cellar door and tasting room of Raimes, alongside a sun-filled outdoor courtyard.

This must be one of the most charming ways to enjoy the English countryside. Gussie, one of the founders, is on hand to take you on a tour of her prized vines, before hosting a tasting of the array of sparkling produced by them, bringing the journey of English vine to sparkling wine to effervescent life.

Scattered across a number of chalk hills in the South Downs, Raimes Vineyard is part of a wider farm, managed by a fifth-generation farming family who extended their legacy by planting 10 acres of vines in 2011. Tended to by a family with farming in their DNA, the wine here is all heart and soul, grown according to the season, flexing with what nature dishes up each year.

With the sparkling trio of Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier and Chardonnay wrapping themselves around the trellises, Hampshire’s climate allows for slow and gentle ripening to ensure a complexity of flavours in the final wines. English sparkling is naturally more zingy and fruit forward than traditional champagne, and at Raimes, this high acidity balances perfectly with rich orchard fruit aromas.

We tasted the Demi-Sec, a Chardonnay dominant sparkling that was fresh and light, its brioche creaminess melting into the slight residual sugar of blossom notes.

Vineyard tours run from May to September, at £15 per person. The cellar door is open from mid-May to September on Saturday afternoons, with the Summer Courtyard open from June to September (no bookings required). If you’re feeling peckish, there’s locally made pork pies and cheese boards to graze on as you sip bubbles in the sunshine.

raimes.co.uk

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Hattingley Valley Wines

As one of the UK’s most successful wine producers, Hattingley is a slick operation. What it may lack in boutique experience, it makes up for sheer wow factor. Here, you’ll leave the wiser wine connoisseur, having gained a unique insight into one of our largest wine makers.

Established in 2010, Hattingley is a pioneer of English wine and a wonderful example of where the industry is heading, showcasing how serious wine production is in this country, under the helm of the super talented winemaker, Emma Rice – twice winner of the ‘UK winemaker of the year’. With its 600-tonne capacity, Hattinlgey is one of the most technologically advanced wineries in England, producing its own award-winning wines, as well as sparkling and still wines for growers across Hampshire and the country.

10 hectares of vineyards grow a variety of grapes from Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier to Pinot Gris and Bacchus. Following a survey of flora and fauna at the farm before the vines were planted, the rare Silver-washed Fritillary Butterfly was discovered – demonstrating how healthy yet delicate the eco-system of this special place is. In recognition, illustrations of the Fritillary Butterfly can be seen everywhere at the winery and on Hattingley bottles.

At £20 per person, the weekend tours and tastings are very thorough, and cater to groups of up to 20 people. After an introduction to English wines, you’ll be taken on a tour of the impressive winery followed by a wine tasting back at the barn.

We tasted four wines on our visit, three sparkling and one still. The Blanc de Blancs sparkling was a firm favourite, at 100% chardonnay the dry, baked apple notes blended into a creamy, brioche finish showcasing both style and substance.

hattingleyvalley.com

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Where to stay and dine in Hampshire

Exploring vineyards builds up an appetite. Here are a few suggestions of where you can stop for lunch or dinner or find a place to relax at during your wine adventure in Hampshire.

For additional recommendations, our friends at Vineyards of Hampshire have plenty of ideas and tips to enjoy a weekend away amongst the vines. www.vineyardsofhampshire.co.uk

The Flower Pots Inn in Cheriton is as traditional as it is authentic, renowned for its own brewery (if you are looking for a change from wine). This alongside home-cooked dishes and great walks to enjoy from and to the Inn, makes it a great stop to stretch your legs and sate your appetite. www.theflowerpots.co.uk

The Yew Tree is a traditional pub in the beautiful village of Lower Wield. Great for dog walkers and food lovers, the chef here has an esteemed culinary background, and his dishes speak of his travels across the world.
https://theyewtreelowerwield.co.uk/

Home to ‘Pub Chef of the Year’ and multiple awards, The Purefoy Arms in Preston Candover offers a tranquil respite from a road trip, and we hear is a must-visit for Sunday roasts. The pub is also a champion for local produce, English wines (hurrah), local gins and craft beers. ThePurefoyArms

A pub with rooms, the Woolpack Inn in Totford is a find for local game and fish as well as heir outdoor pizza oven on Sundays. There’s seven well-appointed double bedrooms, all en-suite and best of all, dog friendly.
https://www.thewoolpackinn.co.uk/

Heckfield Place is a hotel, with a wonderful spa and restaurant. This Georgian house is as idyllic as it is grand. An elegant bolthole of an estate to relax in over a weekend or longer in Hampshire.
https://www.heckfieldplace.com/

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Hampshire is home to Hambledon, the UK’s first commercial vineyard, and more recently Hampshire is the base for Louis Pommery, the first Champagne house to cross the channel to put their name on a bottle of English Sparkling.

With many of the county’s vineyards a short drive from each other, can we be so bold to say that Hampshire could be England’s answer to the wine tourist trails of Napa and the Barossa?

Within an easy distance from London by train or car, that’s our weekend sorted!

www.vineyardsofhampshire.co.uk

*Wines, experiences and prices are subject to change, advanced reservations are recommended for tours, tastings and dining.