Britain’s seaside wineries are maturing nicely, making award-winning wines in beautiful locations, while offering tours, tastings and hospitality to lovers of the vine
Words JENNY OLDAKER
Back in ancient Greece and Rome, the technique of submerging grapes in seawater was common, a means of both washing the grapes and imparting a unique flavour to the resulting wine. While today’s grapes don’t have direct contact with the ocean, the sea still brings benefits to winemakers, who credit coastal terroir for producing top-notch grapes thanks to health-giving sea breezes and a lower incidence of frost. Many of these shoreside wineries produce award-winning wines of all varieties so, whatever your taste, a tour or tasting session makes for a great day out.
1. FOR… MORE THAN WINE
La Mare Wine Estate, Jersey
Alongside wine, La Mare produces apple brandy, fruit liqueurs, cider, fudges, luxury chocolates and preserves, all sold in the Estate Shop, and visitors can learn about their production with a tour that includes a tasting session. The location is beautiful, as well as good for growing, which began back in 1972. ‘One of the main benefits of being close to the sea is the lack of frost,’ says winemaker Tom Walker. ‘The air temperature never really drops below 0C after February.’ (lamarewineestate.com).
Where to stay: Greenhills Country House Hotel offers a relaxing stay, with Garden View Rooms from £112 per night including breakfast. Book at seymourhotels.com/greenhills-hotel.
2. FOR… A TASTE OF FRANCE
Bride Valley Vineyard, Dorset
This vineyard was the brainchild of Steven Spurrier, a celebrated figure of the wine world who spent many years in France before settling in Dorset with his wife Bella. Among the fine wines produced at Bride Valley is England’s first and only Crémant – the vineyard is well suited to producing sparkling wines, with south-facing slopes and chalky Kimmeridgian soil. Tours and tastings are offered between Easter and grape harvest, with private group tours welcome in winter months (bridevalleyvineyard.com).
Where to stay: Self-catering accommodation is available at Rudge Farm Cottages. Weekend rate from £207 for a one-bedroom cottage. Call 01308 482630 or visit rudgefarmcottages.co.uk.
3. FOR… MUSIC AMID THE VINES
Adgestone Vineyard, Isle of Wight
There’s a relaxed vibe at Adgestone, which suits its setting on the laid-back Isle of Wight, where this 10-acre vineyard enjoys fabulous sea views. In fact, the waters surrounding the island inspired the vineyard’s most unusual wine, Something Blue – the only blue sparkling wine made in the UK (yes, really!). In the warmer months sharing platters, nibbles and cream teas are served up on the decking, with live music on weekends in summer. Learn more about Adgestone’s wines via its Grape to Glass Experience, which you don’t need to book (adgestonevineyard.co.uk).
Where to stay: Violet is the estate’s shepherd’s hut glamping option, surrounded by vines and offering uninterrupted sea views. From £250 for three-night minimum stay. To book, go to the winery’s website above.
4. FOR… FANTASTIC FIZZ
Rathfinny Estate, East Sussex
Glorious English Channel views from its location in Alfriston are just the start of this Sussex vineyard’s appeal. South-facing slopes and free-draining chalky soil help create an ideal setting for grape growing, and the world-class wines that Rathfinny produces from its 385,000 vines are testament to these favourable growing conditions. The terroir is especially suited to grapes used to make sparkling wines – Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Meunier. Tours and tastings are available all year round (rathfinnyestate.com).
Where to stay: The Estate’s Flint Barns have 10 en-suite rooms blending historic character with contemporary style. From £100 per night, including breakfast. Book at rathfinnyestate.com/stay or call 01323 874030.
5. FOR… NATURAL NUANCES
Terlingham Vineyard, Kent
‘The sea adds something very special to the wines,’ explains Jackie Wilks of family-run Terlingham Vineyard, just outside Folkestone. ‘We get a lovely sea breeze blowing though the vines most days. This helps with managing disease, as it keeps a healthy airflow through the year. It also adds a lovely minerality and crispness to the wines.’ Terlingham’s ethos of natural, low-intervention farming has resulted in award-wining wines – both sparkling and still – and it has been named one of The Times’ top UK vineyards to visit. Guided vineyard walks and wine tasting offered all year (terlinghamvineyard.co.uk).
Where to stay: The vineyard has three comfortable en-suite rooms in the old winery, starting from £120 per night, including breakfast. Call 01303 892452 or go to terlinghamvineyard.co.uk.
6. FOR… RENTING YOUR OWN VINE
Old Walls Vineyard, Devon
‘It’s believed that the Romans used the sloped fields now known as Old Walls Vineyard to grow vines for their own wine making,’ says Karen Stacey, general manager at Old Walls. Today it’s still a wonderful location for wines: ‘The vineyard covers six acres, is frost-free and benefits hugely from facing south. From higher up the slopes the views of the coast and River Teign are stunning.’ As well as tours and tastings, Old Walls runs an innovative ‘rent-a-vine’ scheme – a fantastic gift for wine lovers (oldwallsvineyard.co.uk).
Where to stay: Enjoy your wine overlooking the vines at Old Walls’ holiday lodges, sleeping up to four. From £300 for two nights, booking details via the website.
7. FOR… BOUTIQUE CHARM
Lily Farm Vineyard, Devon
One of the smallest commercial vineyards in England, Lily Farm has been producing wines since 2005 and is a stone’s throw from the East Devon coastal town of Budleigh Salterton. The vines sit in a southwest-facing position on sandstone slopes around 40-50m above sea level, making red, white, rosé and sparkling wines, and guided tours from May to September allow visitors to discover and taste them (lilyfarmvineyard.com).
Where to stay: Three spacious, homely rooms await at the nearby Seven Acre Corner B&B (above), starting from £90 per night, including breakfast. To book, go to sevenacrecornerbnb.co.uk.
8. FOR… A HISTORIC STAY
Charles Palmer Vineyards, East Sussex
Just outside Winchelsea, a town steeped in wine-trading tradition, this acclaimed family-run vineyard prides itself on meticulous production and exacting standards, resulting in high-quality wines, including an effervescent Blanc de Blancs, smooth Pinot Noir and vibrant Chardonnay. ‘Being just a mile from the sea gives us a beneficial microclimate, offering protection from frosts,’ says Chantal Palmer. ‘We also have more sunlight hours, aiding vine and grape growth.’ Pre-book a tasting or buy wines at the cellar door (charlespalmer-vineyards.co.uk).
Where to stay: Two private suites are available at Wickham Manor (right), the 16th-century house at the vineyard. From £145 per night for two sharing (two-night min stay). Book at wickhammanor.co.uk.
9. FOR… WELSH GOODIES GALORE
Gwinllan Conwy Vineyard, North Wales
Sitting close to LLandudno in North Wales, Gwinllan Conwy’s climate means the typical grapes harvested here are cool climate varieties like Solaris, Ortega and Rondo, though recent warmer weather has seen the vineyard flirt with traditional grapes such as Pinot Noir and Chardonnay too. Tours offer insight into the process from start to finish, including a tasting of the wines and grazing boards of Welsh produce, with local delicacies also available at the on-site shop (gwinllanconwy.co.uk).
Where to stay: Gorgeous eco-apartment Flat C View is a brilliant base in Rhos-on-Sea, easily accessible from Gwinllan Conwy. Rates from £95 per night. To book visit airbnb.co.uk.
10. Shotley Vineyard, Suffolk
Relatively new to the UK wine scene, Shotley launched its first vintage in June 2020 and, with its wines already scooping awards, it’s been a strong start for owners Charlotte Davitt-Mills and Craig Mills. The vineyard overlooks the Orwell and Stour estuaries and is a popular stop-off for walkers and tourists. At weekends, coffee and cakes are served, alongside wines to taste. Shotley runs regular food and drink events too, from cocktail nights to a supper club and ‘forage with a fork’ sessions (shotleyvineyard.co.uk).
Where to stay: Enjoy Shotley Marina views at The Shipwreck Loft, just two miles from the vineyard. Prices from £90 on a room-only basis. Call 01473 788865 or go to shipwreckloft.co.uk to book.