English sparkling wine tours are Surrey’s latest attraction

PUBLISHED: 18:52 15 August 2016 | UPDATED: 18:52 15 August 2016

Sibylla with a bottle of High Clandon's Quintessence (Photo: Matthew Williams)

Sibylla with a bottle of High Clandon's Quintessence (Photo: Matthew Williams)

Archant

With a new sparkling wine tour having just launched in Surrey, Matthew Williams gets a taste of what’s involved (strictly in the name of research, you understand...)

Nick among the vines at Albury Vineyard (Photo: Matthew Williams)Nick among the vines at Albury Vineyard (Photo: Matthew Williams)

Originally published in Surrey Life magazine August 2016

***

As regular Surrey Life readers will know well, our county’s sparkling wine is on the march and often competing at the very top table of international awards. It was perhaps only a matter of time then before some clever so-and-so connected the dots on the map, and realised that people might travel from far and, well, near to enjoy a day of scenic celebration amongst our Surrey’s thriving vineyards.

So it is that we find ourselves at Guildford station, meeting the Shere-based oenophile and former accountant, Mike Keeble, who has just launched English Sparkling Wine Tours.

Meeting up with our group for the day, we pile on-board our minibus to the opening destination of our tour. Unsurprisingly, things kick off at England’s largest single-estate vineyard, Denbies Wine Estate in Dorking, and its sprawling 265 acres. It’s here that we are first reminded that the chalk slopes of the Surrey Hills are the same as those in the Champagne region of France. Fortunate for us all, it seems.

A whistle-stop run through their 30-year history, in their recently-updated cinema room, is followed by a tour of the winery and a tasting in their atmospheric basement – complete with decorative show barrels created using wood salvaged from the 1987 Great Storm.

Next, we’re back on the road and off to a vineyard at the complete opposite end of the spectrum. The boutique-as-it-gets one-acre High Clandon is run by the irrepressible Sibylla and Bruce Tindale – it’s basically a small corner of their back garden. It’s not quite any back garden, however, stretching out from their spectacular home and with uninterrupted views all the way to London. What started as a bit of a hobby, remains a hands-on project today but is now picking up international awards. They’ll be celebrating their latest vintage in September, following the marriage of their son. Of course, it’s not Champagne, but they’d also argue it’s not English sparkling wine. They call it Quintessence. However you label it, it’s a fabulous product and their repartee is sparkling.

Pub pit stop

A relaxed lunch at the fittingly quintessentially-English The Queen’s Head in East Clandon is followed by a quick spin down the road to Albury Vineyard – and arguably the most intriguing of the day’s destinations. Intriguing because, while they face the same challenges as the others (largely the changeable English weather!), they’re also a biodynamic vineyard.

If you didn’t know (and we didn’t), this means everything from pruning the vines with the phases of the moon to stuffing manure into cow horns, burying those horns over winter, then stirring a small amount of the fermented manure in rainwater and spraying it over the vineyard. Seriously.

Owner Nick Wenman, vineyard manager Alex Valsecchi and guard terrier Attila are on fine form as they explain some of the stranger goings-on in their search for the perfect drop. Their very first wine, Silent Pool Rosé 2011, was chosen to be served on the Royal Barge as part of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations, so they’re obviously on the right track.

Finally, and this may be a curve ball for a wine tour, but it would be madness not to take the short stroll over to Albury Vineyard’s neighbours, Silent Pool Distillers. Here we discover it’s not just Surrey ‘bubbles’ that are flying off the shelves. Silent Pool sold more than 10 times the amount of their signature gin they’d planned for last year (only their first, even if it feels like they’ve been around for generations). That’s set to double to 90,000 bottles in their second year!

Suffice to say, a day touring some of the best that Surrey has to offer is an extremely pleasant way to spend a few hours. Even for those in the know, it’s an intriguing glimpse into how the world is now getting an increasingly in-demand taste of our county.

• Aimed at the groups market (think corporate, society or club days out), a trip with English Sparkling Wine Tours costs £145 per person. See englishsparklingwinetours.co.uk

***

More local tipples

10 of the best Surrey drinks producers

The best of Surrey wine

The best of Surrey beers

More from Surrey Life

Yesterday, 12:41

Bella Vou run us through CO2RE Intima, a non-surgical treatment helping with women’s intimate health

Read more
Tue, 16:16

At Sir William Perkins’s School (SWPS) the aim is to build confidence, integrity and excellence in a caring, innovative and happy community so that each student leaves with the best possible chance of achieving her full potential and ready to take on the world.

Read more
Tue, 11:43

If the colder weather is making you feel like escaping to somewhere snug and cosy, you might be surprised to find some perfect rural retreats right on your doorstep. Here’s our pick of the best to discover in Surrey…

Read more
Tue, 11:33

Get ready to laugh, boo and hiss, and cheer on your favourite childhood heroes in the array of pantomimes coming to Surrey theatres this Christmas

Read more
Tue, 11:01

Whether you're looking for fine dining, pub grub or exotic dishes, eating out in Surrey has something for everyone. Here's our guide to the best local restaurants and pubs

Read more
Mon, 16:01

Actress, singer and entertainer, Anita Harris has travelled the world in an illustrious career that spans over five decades. From her home in Chertsey, she talks to Tinx Newton about the people she has worked with, her tour and life in Surrey

Read more
Mon, 14:13

If there's ever a time of year when a brisk, bracing walk is needed, then winter and the lead-up to the festive season is surely it. Here we round up a few of our Surrey favourites

Read more
Mon, 13:01

Great things to do in Surrey this weekend (14, 15 and 16 December): art exhibitions, walks, concerts, theatre, places to visit and other events and ideas.

Read more
Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Surrey is a county full of festive delights. Think cosy pubs, frosty views and long winter walks. We pick 22 wonderful reasons to spend Christmas in Surrey.

Read more
Tuesday, December 4, 2018

We round up some of the best events and things to do across Surrey this month

Read more
Tuesday, December 4, 2018

With beautiful countryside, stunning villages and plenty of bluebells during spring, Surrey is an amazing place for a stroll

Read more
Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Pupils at The Hawthorns School in Bletchingley collected over 5,800 items of food for the Loveworks foodbanks in Reigate and Merstham

Read more
Friday, November 30, 2018

We’ve teamed up with Grand Illusions to give one lucky reader the opportunity to win a £250 gift card with the stylish homeware brand

Read more
Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Celebrating its 25 anniversary, Kinghams restaurant is found at the heart of one of Surrey’s most iconic villages. Matthew Williams visits to discover the secrets of its longevity

Read more

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up to the following newsletters:

Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Our Privacy Policy

Topics of Interest


Follow us on Twitter


Like us on Facebook

Subscribe or buy a mag today

subscription ad

Local Business Directory

Property Search