The dream of our parents’ generation was to move to Provence and mooch around in the sun, drinking lovely wine (thank you Peter Mayle). But we don’t need reveries of France to live their fantasy – English wine in booming and the vineyards have come to us. Across the Southern counties – Kent, East Sussex, Surrey, Hampshire and the like – you’ll find neatly ordered rows of vines growing the classic champagne grapes like Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier, as well as varieties more suited to English soils, like Bacchus, Pinot Blanc and Riesling.
Where there was once only a handful of winemakers you could visit within sight of the capital, now there are enough to make a day, nay, a weekend of it. And, most importantly, it’s possible by train (with the help of a couple of well-placed taxis, here and there), so there’s no need to appoint a designated driver. Plus they’re all around an hour from London. Take the excuse and spend a civilised weekend sipping on some of the country’s finest and award-winning English wine.
Waterloo to Alton – Train 1hr 7mins; Alton to Jenkyn Place – 10 min taxi
Available dates for tours, which all start at 10.45am, can be found online. The vineyard and winery tour costs £15 per person, and wines can be purchased at a discount on the day.
Jenkyn Place to Hattingley Valley – 20 min taxi
Tours must be pre-booked and run throughout the year, except during harvest (mid-September to mid-November). A winery tour and tasting costs £15 per person, and a vineyard, winery tour and tasting is £20.
Eat – The Yew Tree
It’s essential to book but grab lunch at proper old-school pub The Yew Tree just across the road from the winery.
Hattingley Valley to Raimes Sparkling wines – 21 min taxi
Regular open cellar door dates and set dates for tour groups can all be found online. A 1.5-hour tour takes 10 people at £10 per person, and includes taste of two vintages.
Raimes to Stockbridge – 23 min taxi
Stay – The Greyhound on the Test
This gastropub in the centre of Stockbridge high street has a sunny dining terrace and stylish rooms to sleep off the excesses of the day.
Stockbridge to Exton park – 20 min taxi
Exton Park isn’t generally open to the public, but in July it plays host to Fizz Fest (featuring lots of Hampshire vineyards). Otherwise small groups can make special arrangements for a visit in advance.
Exton to Hambledon – 24 min taxi
Book in advance to take a tour of one of the county’s best-known vineyards. For £17 per person it’s a two-hour long tour including a tasting of two Classic Cuvée sparkling wines.
Hambledon to Petersfield – 18 min taxi; Petersfield to London– 1 hr 5 min train