Bubbles in the “Garden of England”A taste English sparkling wine
For a few decades now Kent in southeast England has been making a name for itself in the wine world and in particular the sparkling wine one.
Even French Champagne houses are starting to show an interest in this little corner of England that is gradually experiencing ‘plus de soleil’.
Where is Chapel Down?and how to get there
The Chapel Down Winery is best reached by car, the public transport options are limited, and maybe unrealistic.
If coming via motorway, then my choice would be to leave the M20 at junction 8 and follow the signs for Tenterden. The vineyard is about 2.5 miles from there and clearly signposted.
A perfect vineyard location in KentChapel Down nestled in the hamlet of New Hythe
Chapel Down vineyard is deep in the heart of the Kent countryside and located just outside Tenterden in the hamlet of Small Hythe. Is this important I hear you ask, well actually it is, as this was one of the reasons that this location was chosen.
Waaay back, prior to the “South of England Flood” in 1287, Small Hythe was a harbour and Tenterden was a Cinque Port, (now the sea is 11 miles away).
Where to stay
- The Woolpack Hotel – Located in the centre of Tenterden, this historic inn offers delightful rooms within traditional surroundings. A delicious full English breakfast is included in the price. - The White Lion – Situated along the traditional historic High Street, the White Lion offers stylish, comfortable rooms. It has an in-house restaurant and free on-site parking.
The Chapel Down vineyard tourThe do's and don't of your wine tasting experience
I’ve digressed a bit, now back to the Chapel Down tour.
Prompt and ready to impart his extensive viticulture knowledge to us all, is our cheery tour guide, Tony.
Tony gives us a brief run-down of the do’s and don’ts of a working vineyard, then kindly handouts out our haute couture orange gilets.
As I see the sweeping Bacchus vineyards flowing down the hill, I’m immediately transported back to the rolling patchwork quilt vineyards in France.
It’s such a lovely sight.
Champagne, here we come
Map, guides and more
Whether you’re planning a road trip, plotting a hiking route or cycling one of UK’s scenic trails, there’s nothing quite like using a tactile paper map.
The Ordnance Survey folk are here to help, with maps, guides, gadgets and more. Take a browse through their vast array of maps and grab your ideal companion for your adventure.
The art of making English wineIt’s all in the detail
Tony then guides us around part of the lush Bacchus vines which were planted in 1987.
Explaining in more detail the process of planting and maintaining the vineyard.
Several of the vines are now knocking on to 30 to 40 years old, and like me are maturing pleasantly with age.
Kentish through and throughThe importance of the terroir
The grapes are ripe for harvestingIt's all hands on deck when September arrives
The vines at Chapel Down are planted from north to south, to allow maximum sunshine to the grapes and vines as the sun passes over east to west.
We visited towards the end of August, so the grapes were in abundance and very near their ripening peak. The harvest for 2019 is due to be gathered during the first two weeks of September.
Visit some of Kent’s Historic Towns, Villages & Cities
Behind the scenes at Chapel DownWhere the vinification magic begins
The art of riddling sparkling wineIn France it's remuage
Hit the road
The Chapel Down 'Wine Sanctuary'In view of the rolling vineyards
Now that we have all been educated in the art of wine growing and production, it was time to head to the ‘Wine Sanctuary’ and enjoy a few samples.
The Wine Sanctuary is an old converted farm building, which now houses a bar, communal and separate tasting tables. All of which have a glorious view over the vineyards and the Kent countryside beyond.
Chapel Down mainly specialises in producing white wines, sparkling and non-sparkling. Though their delicate range of rosé wines are wonderful.
They no longer produce red wines as the soil and climate in the UK, is better for lighter reds and apparently, market forces tended to desire full-bodied reds. I must admit I do enjoy a light red, particularly when it is slightly chilled. But, hey ho, what do I know?
It's time to taste the Kentish winesEnjoying the delicate notes and tones
Tony then proceeded to give us a masterclass in the art of smelling and tasting a glass of wine.
It’s incredible when you sample the wine intending to pick up the notes and flavours, you really get so much more from a glass of wine.
It also gives you an understanding of how your palate works by picking up different tones to the wine.
Get me, who do I think I sound like, I’ll be giving Oz Clarke a run for his money soon.
Seven Chapel Down wines to sampleWhite, rosé, sparkling and non-sparkling
We were given a leaflet on all the wines we tasted and others available, educating us a little further on the flavours involved.
I must say that this tour was extremely informative and easy going. Gary and I have enjoyed a few wine tours over the last two or three years and found this to be the best in terms of knowledge and variety of tastings.
In my opinion
The tour is certainly worthwhile, although, if you just want to visit the vineyard it’s a lovely place to wander around. There are two signposted walks through the vineyards the ‘Blue Walk’ which is 0.62km/0.39 miles and the ‘Red Walk’ which is 1.02km/0.63 miles.
Additionally, there is the onsite Swan Restaurant and picnic area for you to enjoy.
Did someone say Chapel Down gin?Let's not forget the vodka and Lamberhurst Brandy too
As mentioned a little earlier, Chapel Down additionally produce spirits; currently, they have two gins, a vodka and a Lamberhurst Brandy.
If you head to the Chapel Down Gin Works & Restaurant, just by the Regent’s Canal in Kings Cross, London you’ll be able to sample the gin and vodka on the Spirits Tasting tour.
Useful things to know
- 2021 Pricing; Adult £20.00, Concessions £15 - There is a sizeable onsite carpark, which is free of charge - You’ll need to choose a designated driver. - Ideally wear comfy shoes, the walking segment isn’t too long; however, the ground is uneven in places. - It’s advisable to book your tour in advance
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