Renowned as the Garden of England, Kent’s rolling hills are singing to a new tune. The hum of vines has replaced many of the orchards of past. The county now flies the flag for England’s exciting wine industry, offering unique experiences for visitors coming from far and wide to taste its award-winning wines.
The initial shift from apples to grapes took place around 50 years ago, with the first commercial vineyard in Kent, Biddenden, heralding a wave of new vineyards from the early 2000s.
We meet with Jo Smith, Brand Manager of Wine Garden of England to find out how this county, famous for its oast houses, seaside towns, castles and white cliffs is now leading the way for wine tourism in the UK.
“We have more vineyards in Kent than any other region, so the choice and range of experiences is fantastic. We are also very easily accessed from London – Sevenoaks, Canterbury and Ashford are all major stations near many vineyards. Our proximity to France also makes it easy for European visitors,” explains Jo.
But how did Kent become such a hotbed of vineyard and innovative wine makers?
The weather helps “Kent is the driest and sunniest part of the UK” says Jo, “with some of our highest temperatures. So not only does that help to make the best fruit and therefore amazing wines, this also makes the experience of visiting that much better”.
Kent is also layered with soils that wine grapes love, the North Downs flow with the same chalk seams found in Champagne, and we know how great that sparkling is, whilst many of the vineyards are close to the coast, the sea acting as a moderator helping the vines when they need it most. .
All of this attracts winemakers from across the world, there’s even talk of Champagne houses looking for land, led by the Taittinger owned Domaine Evremond and their vines near Faversham.
If you like some extra sparkle in your wine glass, this is the place to be. Due to our longer, warmer summers of late, still wines are also becoming commonplace, and Kent makes some crackers with Pinot Noirs and Chardonnay taking centre stage. One of the UK’s best rosés comes from Kent too – a Wildflower Wine Club favourite, folc is pure summertime in a glass.
Most of the vineyards in Kent offer vineyard tours, wine tastings, pop-up restaurants, picnic spots, fresh produce shops and more, with many vineyards only 20 minutes’ drive from each other, Kent is perfect for vineyard hopping and bottle popping.
WINE TASTING EXPERIENCES
If you’ve only got a day
Start your morning with a visit to Chartwell in Westerham. This beautiful country house, the home of Winston Churchill for much of his life offers an insight into his creative mind, we can spend hours exploring the stunning rose garden.
We suggest having lunch at Squerryes Winery Restaurant followed by a tour of the estate with a tasting in the Cork Room. Browse the Estate Deli and Cellar Door for a few treats to take home.