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Susy Atkins' vineyards to visit

Published on May 5, 2016
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‘English Wine Week kicks off on May 28, so there’s no better time to get out and discover the South West’s beautiful vineyards and wineries,’ says Susy. Here’s her pick of some of the best, plus a few extras to put on your hit list, too

Susy Atkins

‘Many of the vineyards open their doors on a regular basis, with tastings, wine shops and special events, but they crank up the activities no end during English Wine Week,’ says Susy. ‘Check out the English Wine Producers‘ website for news of all the pop-ups at wineries during these action-packed seven days.

‘South West wineries are great places to visit right through the spring and summer though, and there is nothing finer than sipping a glass of local wine in the very place where it was made, surrounded by the vines that produced the grape.’

Knightor Winery

This relatively new winery is already a popular destination in south Cornwall, especially as the Eden Project is under a mile away. Grapes are sourced from Knightor’s own vineyards in Portscatho and Seaton as well as other sites in England.

The wines are seriously classy, from the fine, elegant sparkling Knightor Classic Cuvée to the more unusual Mena Hweg (the name means ‘sweet hill’), a juicy but light white with a distinctive hint of sweetness which makes a great partner for fresh fruit and mild local cheeses. I love this wine which is similar in style to a premium German Mosel riesling …

The winery and restaurant are in handsome restored stone barns. There’s a bar serving not only wine, but Cornish ales and ciders too. Head to a hearty Sunday lunch here, or a special foodie themed evening (“meet the butcher” or “duck feast night”), usually held on Fridays, or you can hire the venue for a private party. You can also just drop by for a more casual snack of local cold meats and cheeses, or a cream tea and glass of fizz (check for opening times). I can recommend the Vineyard Tour (£10 including tasting of three wines, 45 minutes), or the Winemaker’s Tour at 5pm on Thursdays (£14, 1½hours) where you will learn the art of oenology from a pro. Booking is advised for the tours.

Camel Valley

Camel Valley

Camel has become one of the UK’s best-loved and well-known wineries, and quite right too. The standard of its wines is incredibly high and it regularly scoops national and international awards. My tasting notes for Camel Valley wines often include a reference to a whistleclean, super-fresh streak. The acidity is crystal clear and I especially love the nettley, refreshing, dry bacchus white.

The winery has been run by the Lindo family, Bob and Annie with winemaker son Sam, for decades (Bob and Sam pictured above). They clearly adore this beautiful green valley near Bodmin, and have two holiday cottages among the vines if you think you might like to hang out here too … For day visitors between March and September, there’s an hour-long guided tour around the vines and winery (£8.50 including a glass of wine) or the Grand Tour at 5pm on Wednesdays with a winemaker, including a tasting of five wines (£15, booking advisable for both tours). For all visitors, Camel has a glorious sun terrace above its wine shop, where you can look out over the vines while sipping a glass of the famous Cornwall Brut bubbly.

Quoins Organic Vineyard

Near Bradford-on-Avon, on the Wiltshire-Somerset border, is Quoins, one of only six vineyards in the UK to be certified organic by the Soil Association. So, no herbicides, pesticides or fungicides, and no artificial fertilisers. There’s a low carbon footprint mission here too – this must be about as “green” as red, white and rosé in England can get! Unsurprisingly, owner Alan Chubb says Quoins is a ‘wildlife haven’, with owls, larks and woodpeckers among the birds regularly spotted. There are also orchards (Quoins makes and sells apple juice), while the more unusual fruits grown include quinces, damsons and  Asian pears.

Grape varieties include madeleine angevine for an off-dry white, and rondo for a red. A rosé is produced in some years and it produces an award winning orion white. I’ve tasted Quoins wines at food festivals and have really enjoyed their “true”, vibrantly fruity flavours. Bespoke tours of these lovely vineyards are by arrangement; Quoins takes a minimum of 10 people around the rustic setting and can provide picnics, camp fires and more. Prices from £15 per person; call to find out more. There are open days occasionally throughout the summer, including a free one on May 1 from 12pm – 5pm; check the website for more details.

Sharpham

Furleigh Estate

A few years ago, Rebecca Hansford and Ian Edwards bought back the farm where Rebecca had grown up, changing its use to vineyards and a winery, with great success. Although Furleigh makes still wines (including a popular rosé called Sea Pink), its renown now is as a sparkling specialist.

The couple grow the classic champagne grapes for their multi-award winning fizz – chardonnay, pinot noir and pinot meunier – and only source fruit from their own estate. The Furleigh sparklers are exquisite and among my firm favourites – they have a creamy texture and toasty depth of flavour not always seen in English fizz.

This is beautiful west Dorset countryside, on bucolic rolling hills only a few miles from the Jurassic Coast. You can take a tour of the vineyards and winery at 2.30pm (£10, 1½hours) or a Grand Tour for two hours (£20 including a glass of Furleigh fizz), both on Fridays and Saturdays only and it’s a good idea to book ahead. Or just visit the shop and tasting room where, as well as the estate wines, glasses and wine accessories are for sale (open 11am – 5pm every day except Sundays). This is a very pretty and relatively quiet, untouristy estate, well worth a visit.

Sharpham

Devon’s South Hams boasts many beautiful spots of course, but the view across Sharpham Estate’s vineyards down gentle slopes to the twinkling River Dart near Totnes must rank among the very best (pictured above). It always seems to be a little warmer and sunnier in this sheltered micro-climate than anywhere else nearby; perhaps one reason for the quality of the wines produced here.

The varieties grown include chardonnay and pinot noir for fine sparklers, as well as madeleine angevine and bacchus for whites. Sharpham makes a wide range of wine styles; my favourites include the crisp, lemony dry Estate Selection white (fab with crab) and the bright, strawberry scented Sparkling Rosé (very jolly at a party).

You can taste at the cellar door (open from May though the summer, Mon-Sat, 10am-5pm) and do try the Sharpham cheeses from its own dairy at the same time. Or stay for lunch or tea at the excellent outdoor, seasonal Anchorstone @ Sharpham cafe. You can take a self-guided walk around marked vineyard trails too, right through the hills and down to the banks of the majestic river below a visit here makes a great day trip.

Guided tours include the popular Vine to Wine (£19.95, 2½hours), from May to September on Saturdays and Sundays at 3pm, heading through the vineyards and winery, tasting wines and cheeses en route. Booking is advisable for the tour.

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