With summer around the corner, we asked our friends at The Wine List, the educational wine subscription service, to give us their top recommendations for vineyards to visit, and stay overnight at, in the UK. If you aren’t planning a trip abroad this year, these five picks will help satisfy your appetite for travel (and wine).
Oxney Organic Estate - Hobbs Lane, Beckley, Rye, TN31 6TU
Located in the heart of the High Weald AONB in East Sussex, the Oxney Organic Estate is a firm Wine List favourite. It’s the largest single estate organic vineyard in the country and it’s relatively new on the wine scene. Owner Kristin Syltevik and winemaker Ben Smith purchased their farm near Rye in 2009 and planted the first vines in 2012.
Oxney has quickly gained a reputation as a well-respected newcomer in the English wine industry. And though the quaint Jacobean Vineyard House (sleeping up to eight) is booked out until September, you can stay at one of the estate’s two self-catering shepherd’s huts. Nestled on one of the vineyards, they’re ideal for a short getaway. While you’re there, be sure to try the Oxney Organic Rosé — England’s best rosé in our founder Josh’s opinion.
Book your visit to Oxney Estate here.
Tillingham - Dew Farm, Dew Lane, Peasmarsh, TN31 6XD
Just down the road from Oxney is Tillingham. The estate is, a bit like their natural wines and funky bottles, one of the coolest in country. The farm at Tillingham dates back to the 13th century, and winemaker Ben Walgate is an advocate of combining innovations in science and technology with ancient winemaking traditions. Visit for the artistic attention to details (think empty Tillingham bottles as candleholders and vases), and stay for the amazing food and wine at the vineyard’s restaurant and pizzeria.
Rooms at the beautifully-decorated farmstead are in short supply until September, but two Bell Tents have been added to the grounds for this summer. Complete with a king-sized bed, wood burning stove and spectacular views of the rolling hills surrounding the vineyard, you’re in for a treat. We’ve been drinking Tillingham’s pinot noir in the Wine List office recently, but their Qvevri White is also a must try.
Book your visit to Tillingham here.
Rathfinny - Alfriston, East Sussex, BN26 5TU
The Rathfinny Wine Estate was established in 2010 by husband and wife duo, Mark and Sarah Driver. Their vision is to make only the best English sparkling wine and here at Wine List, we recently tried their 2016 vintage Blanc de Blancs, which we think is a delicious and serious sparkling wine. The Drivers are guided by a wisdom that dates back to the Roman times - that the best location for a vineyard is three miles from the sea. And the vineyard’s south-facing slope on the chalky South Downs in Sussex is exactly that.
Book a stay at the Flint Barns for a peaceful retreat away from busy life in one of the airy yet cosy rooms. No trip to Rathfinny is complete without a meal at the Tasting Room Restaurant, however, where the estate’s Head Chef, Chris Bailey, oversees a changing menu of quintessential British cuisine with a contemporary twist.
Book your visit to the Rathfinny Estate here.
Black Chalk - Fullerton Road, Hampshire, SP11 7JX
If you’re after something a little bit different, head to Black Chalk vineyards in Hampshire. Stay at one of the treehouses at the neighbouring Wild Escapes, and book a private tasting from the comfort of your tree. Like Rathfinny, Black Chalk makes some of the best English sparkling wines. Jacob Leadley launched Black Chalk with his brother-in-law, Andrew Seden, in 2018 after training as a winemaker in 2009 and working at nearby Hattingley Valley.
Though Black Chalk is relatively new in the winemaking game, their Classic 2016 has earned ‘more gold medals from reputable places than you can shake a stick at’ - as Josh recently wrote in our Wine List newsletter. The treehouses at Wild Escapes are stylish examples of combining Scandi-style with nature. Take a dip in an outdoor bathtub with a glass of sparkling English, and soak up the beautiful surrounding woodland.
Blackbook Winery - Arch 41, London Stone Business Estate, SW8 3QR
Blackbook isn’t a vineyard, but an urban winery located in a railway arch in Battersea. Winemaker Sergio hosts tours of the winery and wine tasting sessions most Saturdays which, given the small space Blackbook occupies, is quite an immersive experience. The grapes are sourced from a select number of vineyards located close to London, sourcing pinot noir and chardonnay from Essex and and seyval blanc from Oxfordshire.
Blackbook’s labels are as jazzy as their wines — be sure to try their Pygamlion chardonnay. Or take a bottle of the GMF pet-nat and head to The Windmill Hotel in nearby Clapham Common. Book one of the kitch-cum-industrial rooms at this boutique hotel and enjoy the proximity to the luscious park, before heading to the restaurant for a cosy evening meal.
Up next on the blog, read our guide to the 7 best new UK hotels that have opened this year.