Weekend Tour: Sparkling England
Two-day tour across England's breathtaking wine country, overnighting in luxury lodges. A Branch Member-priority event
Time & Location
03 Jun 2023, 09:00 – 04 Jun 2023, 14:00
Brixton Station, Brixton Station, Brixton Rd, London SW9 8HE, UK
IWFS Capital Branch led a 12 person weekend tour of the heart of English sparkling wine country - in Kent, Sussex and Hampshire. The participants were a diverse lot from Capital Branch as well as from three other IWFS branches from around England. Age range spanned the 30s to 70s. The weather was glorious, the undulating contours of the chalky South Downs were utterly beautiful, and the participants were engaging, open hearted and just plain terrific company.
As for the sparkling wine and food - my my. The cellar door visitor experience in England has truly become top drawer - the wineries are gorgeous, the food is an expertly expressed love of locality, and the sparkling wine is now truly world class. Different people had their personal favourites (e.g. blanc de blanc vs cuvee vs blanc de noir vs rose), but all agreed that the bubbles on offer were simply delicious. Another point of agreement was that, for this part of England which still experiences high rainfall, windy conditions, and chalky alkaline soils, the sparkling wine is of higher calibre than the still wines. A couple of chardonnays we tasted were a bit green and short on the finish, lacking fruit concentration to balance the high acidity. Meanwhile an 'experimental' pinot noir that we tasted was instantly forgettable. Its thinness was marred by an array of barnyard odours that could have made orange wine taste like Chablis!
It’s wonderful to have all this splendour on our doorstep in London. And with climate change, for better or worse, the food and wine scene will only improve further over the coming years as the weather gets warmer and more dry.
Thinking back to Napa Valley in the early 1980s, it had an edgy yet ambitious energy. Dreamers were everywhere. This region of England now has that same exciting vibe. It is a buzzing hive of innovation and passion for gastronomical crafthood. This is not your gramp’s England! Nor is it France, Italy, California, or anywhere else. Hopefully as the region develops, its unique sense of place and 'Englishness' will continue to be a defining draw.
Saturday 3 June 2023
9 am - met at Brixton Station.
11 am – arrived at Balfour Estate for winery tour, tasting and lunch. Home - Balfour Winery Balfour Winery - Home 2023)
2 pm – travel to Wiston Estate in East Sussex, with views of the chalk cliffs of the South Downs
4 pm – tour and tasting of Wiston Estates Wiston Estate | Award Winning English Sparkling Wine
6 pm – travel to Ashling Park in West Sussex. Three course dinner with wine pairing. Ashling Park Estate | Sparkling Wines and Luxury Accommodations.
Sunday 4 June 2023
Morning – breakfast, followed by tour of Ashling Park
11 – travel to Hambledon Vineyards in Hampshire
11:30 – tour, tasting and cheese plate lunch at Hambledon Vineyards Hambledon Vineyard - England's Oldest Commercial Vineyard Est. 1952
15:30 – tour ended. Train from Petersfield to London Waterloo.