It’s an early autumn afternoon and I’m standing on the high of a winery. Under me is a sea of greens and golds, acres of vines heavy with ripened grapes – the harvest is effectively below means. The sky is azure, clouds scud over and butterflies flutter previous. It could possibly be the Loire, and even Sonoma, however in reality I’m simply outdoors Dorking, in commuter belt Surrey, simply 40 minutes from London Waterloo.
My trek up the hillside is a part of Denbies Secret Winery Path, an escorted tour spherical components of the 265-acre property that aren’t usually open to the general public, punctuated, if this sounds an excessive amount of like laborious work, by tasters of cheese and honey, and glasses of wine.
The property was established in 1984 when an area entrepreneur, Adrian (now Sir Adrian) White, took over a former pig farm and planted it with vines on the recommendation of his neighbour Professor Richard Promoting, a geologist who recognised that the soils had been just like these in France’s Champagne area. It was an awfully far-sighted undertaking for a time when English wine was thought to be a little bit of a joke.
Issues are very totally different today: an distinctive 2018 harvest noticed England and Wales produce 15.6 million bottles, in contrast with solely four.15 million in 2016. Planting has additionally taken off, almost doubling prior to now 5 years from 1,884 hectares (four,665 acres) in 2013 to three,778 hectares in 2018. Even the French have gotten concerned, with champagne home Taittinger shopping for vineyards in Kent, and Pommery collaborating with Hattingley Valley in Hampshire.
Denbies, like the remainder of the UK wine business within the early days, was once recognized for reasonably weedy medium-dry whites made out of grape varieties similar to seyval blanc and müller thurgau.
Now, half the manufacturing is glowing wine and the remainder is dominated by the favored sauvignon-blanc-like bacchus, ortega (which is commonly used for candy wines) and even some purple varieties. Denbies has truly planted syrah (shiraz to the brand new world) in its experimental winery, which sounds hopeful, at the same time as international temperatures surge.
Denbies Wine Property
It’s already effectively set-up for tourism, too, with an unlimited customer centre and a barely Disney-esque practice trundling via the vineyards. However this summer time, it added a lodge which proudly claims to be the primary English vineyard lodge. (There may be already one at Llanerch in Wales, whose former chef, Michael Hudson, it has lured to Surrey to supervise the brand new restaurant.) The lodging is practical reasonably than flash – with its considerably spartan corridors it feels a bit like a complicated Premier Inn – however the views over the vineyards and the hum of a tractor within the background give it a bucolic vibe.
The south-east of England is house to three-quarters of the UK’s wineries. There’s a handful of city wineries in and round London, together with Blackbook in Battersea, and one close to Bristol, Limeburn Hill, however most English wine comes from Sussex, Kent and Hampshire.
Denbies property and lodge is close to Dorking station. : Frantzesco Kangaris
Wine has change into a profitable second profession for former financiers similar to Ian Kellett of Hambledon Winery in Hampshire and hedge fund supervisor Mark Driver of Rathfinny close to Alfriston in Sussex, which boasts an upmarket B&B, The Flint Barns. Guardian readers is probably not fairly so eager on patronising the glamourous new amenities at Gusbourne in Kent, which is owned by Tory donor and Depart supporter Lord Ashcroft, nevertheless it and close by Hush Heath vineyard – which additionally has a lavishly decked new customer centre – are a part of Kent’s new Wine Backyard of England path.
Denbies, too, is continuous to innovate. Whereas the property isn’t natural (the British climate makes this too difficult, they are saying – and it did chuck it down the morning after my winery stroll), it places nice emphasis on sustainability, is transferring away from plastics, and putting in photo voltaic panels on the roof and electrical automobile charging factors outdoors the lodge.
A enjoyable run via the winery
In a pair of round, tiled cabanas on the “infinity garden”, with views all the way down to the winery past, events of as much as 10 can take pleasure in a meals and wine matching train with the Denbies vary £45pp plus £100 for a wine professional to speak you thru it). The pairings are enjoyably whacky. I’m impressed by the mix of native Chalk Hill Bakery bread and Marmite butter with Denbies’ Cubitt Blanc de Noirs glowing wine (Marmite and bubbly – who knew?) and am amazed to strive its Brokes botrytised candy wine with vanilla pannacotta and caramelised apricots. It’s a little bit of a deal with provided that solely 100 bottles are made annually, which presumably accounts for the £60 price ticket. Surrey’s reply to Chateau d’Yquem, perhaps?
As we sip and munch, cyclists and joggers pace previous. To foster goodwill domestically, the grounds, with seven miles of public footpaths, are open to the general public. After asking for suggestions from residents, the vineyard modified the color of the practice that runs via the property from blue to a extra delicate inexperienced that blends into the bushes. A neighborhood group organises a park run each Saturday morning which attracts some 350 runners. Seasonal occasions similar to a Santa enjoyable run and Easter Bunny Hop run pull in much more.
However perhaps the largest draw is that it’s inside straightforward strolling distance of Dorking station, which might be simply as effectively in any case that “tasting”. And all of the extra purpose for going into the lodge enterprise.
• Lodging was offered by Denbies Winery Lodge (doubles from £135 B&B). The Secret Winery Path runs all through the autumn in fantastic climate, from £25pp (verify web site and social media for dates). The meals and wine matching expertise is accessible to lodge residents solely, reserving important
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