English wine has been ‘having a moment’ for a few years now. Last year, a record 15.6m bottles were produced (more than double the production of 2017). Kent’s chalky soil produces excellent grapes across the county, and there are now several vineyards close to Canterbury that are worth a visit – an experience that 15 years ago would have necessitated a trip across the channel or even a flight across the world!
Most Kent vineyards offer tours and learning experiences, as well as tasting sessions and a chance to buy. All you need is to nominate a dedicated driver for the day, then head off to one of these special places to discover more. We’ve suggested a few recommended local vineyards below for you to taste.
You’ll also find many of these wonderful local wines served in Canterbury’s pubs, bars, restaurants and venues. Be sure to ask for them next time you’re out – it all helps to keep Kentish wine on everyone’s lips (literally!)
Barnsole Vineyard – Staple (between Canterbury and Sandwich). barnsole.co.uk
Barnsole is a boutique Vineyard is located in the village of Staple, situated between Canterbury and the pretty cinque-port town of Sandwich. This is fertile land that has been farmed since ancient times. The (loam over chalk) soil regularly offers-up relics such as Napoleonic buttons, musket balls and the odd clay pipe! Barnsole’s situation delivers the perfect geology and climate to produce the high quality grapes that allow them to produce award winning English wines.
Chartham Valley Vineyardcharthamvineyard.co.uk
Chartham Vineyard is one of East Kent's newest vineyards situated at Burnt House Farm in Chartham It is owned by Dr Roz Waller and her husband Richard Goodenough and managed by their son, Andy. Wines are sold direct from the farm. Currently, the grapes are harvested and then processed off site, under supervision of expert winemakers. The longer term plan is for Chartham Vineyard to have its own winery at Burnt House Farm.
The original Gusbourne Estate in Appledore, near Ashford dates back to 1410. The de Goosebourne family crest was made up of three geese and can be found in the local parish church in Appledore - nowadays, each and every bottle of wine crafted at Gusbourne carries a contemporary goose crest in honour of this heritage. Following the planting of the new vines in 2004, by 2010, debut vintages of Gusbourne Brut Reserve 2006 and Gusbourne Blanc de Blancs won critical acclaim. Gusbourne quickly earned a reputation as a producer of outstanding Kentish sparkling wines, with accolades from some of the industry’s toughest critics.
Hush Heath Estatehushheath.com
The Staplehurst home of award-winning Balfour Brut Rosé is about 40 mins drive away from Canterbury through beautiful Kent countryside. There’s also a great wine shop. It’s a glorious spot on a sunny day! You can even get married on the estate. Hush Heath produces one of England's most iconic and exclusive sparkling wines using the Traditional Method. Visitors can stroll through the Estate’s beautiful vineyards, apple orchards and ancient oak woodlands, before enjoying a detailed talk at the winery and of course, a wine, cider and beer sampling session.
Simpsons Wine Estate, Barhamsimpsonswine.com
The Simpsons vineyards occupy glorious positions on the sunny, sheltered slopes of the North Downs of Kent, protected from the vagaries of the English climate by ancient woodland and rooted in the chalky soils so highly revered in the world of sparkling wine. Charles & Ruth Simpson have made award-winning wines at Domaine Sainte Rose, their southern France property, for the past 17 years. In 2014 they brought their expertise back to the UK establishing Simpsons Wine Estate in Barham, Kent, with an aspiration to create the finest quality Method Traditional English sparkling wine.