The collective of 5 Surrey vineyards putting the county on the map

PUBLISHED: 11:31 25 September 2018 | UPDATED: 11:46 25 September 2018

Denbies Vineyard (Photo by Helen Dixon)

Denbies Vineyard (Photo by Helen Dixon)

Helen Dixon

With growing conditions to rival that of some of the best Champagne houses in France, the south east’s sparkling wine production is booming. We excusively introduce a newly-formed collective of five vineyards aiming to place Surrey firmly on the map

Nurtured on chalky limestone hills and renowned for their English sparkling, rosé wines and more, Surrey’s vineyards have become rivals to some of the best winemakers in Europe and beyond.

With numerous awards under their belts, five of the county’s vineyards have decided to join forces to celebrate and promote the area’s outstanding wines. Sibylla Tindale co-owner of High Clandon Vineyard explains: “This initiative, not only celebrates our outstanding wines but also the beauty of the five vineyards set within the Surrey Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB). Each vineyard, from boutique to big, has unique offerings in English wines, vistas and visits. We want our visitors to delight in wandering through the vineyards, tasting the wines, to learn something new and to really immerse themselves in this AONB.”

We spoke exclusively to the members of the Vineyards of the Surrey Hills (VOSH).


Albury

Albury Vineyard, one of the few certified organic vineyards in the UK, is the result of Nick Wenman’s passion for quality wine. Nick’s aim was to produce sparkling wine when he planted the first vines in 2009, but it was Albury’s still Silent Pool Rosé that first achieved success when it was served on the Royal Barge to celebrate the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee in 2012.

Albury releases a new vintage of its still rosé every year and it quickly sells out, with the 2017 vintage described by wine critic Matthew Jukes as the finest English rosé he had ever tasted: “A heavenly liquid… near perfect in every respect.”

Albury released its first sparkling wines in 2015 and they have since won numerous gold awards, most recently the coveted Top Gold medal at the International Organic Wine Awards in Germany for Albury Estate Blanc de Blancs 2016. The sparkling wines now feature on the wine lists of some of the country’s best restaurants including The Clock House in Ripley, Tom Kerridge’s Hand and Flowers, Tommy Banks’ The Black Swan, and Chez Bruce in Wandsworth.

Albury was voted Drink Product of the Year at the Surrey Life Food & Drink Awards in 2018, yet remains one of Surrey’s most picturesque hidden gems, welcoming visitors at weekends for vineyard tours and informal tastings. Children, dogs and muddy boots welcome too.


Chilworth Manor

Established in 2013, Chilworth Manor Vineyard, occupies a gently sloping 10 acre site in the Surrey Hills adjacent to the manor, a house and estate rooted in an extraordinary 1,000 year history. Saxons, Normans, monks, gunpowder manufacturers, the Duchess of Marlborough, Sir Lionel and Lady Heald all had a part to play in Chilworth’s story and the vineyard now adds another unique dimension.

The naturally fertile, sandy loam lies on a base of clay and sandstone – a site that shares a particular geology with the Val de Reims and Valle de la Marne in the Champagne region of France (the latter home to the famous Bollinger estate). Planted with the classic sparkling wine combination of Pinot Meunier, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay grapes, the vineyard’s aim is to produce both a sparkling wine and a still rose of the highest quality, reflecting the unique heritage of Chilworth Manor.

Though you’ll have to wait until 2020 to try its sparkling wine, the 2017 vintage Rose has proved a great success: “Lovely fresh fruit, good acidity and is both light yet has good flavour. Altogether a very nice example of English wine,” comments master of wines Stephen Skelton.


Denbies

Denbies Wine Estate, located in the heart of Surrey overlooking Box Hill, is the UK’s largest single-vineyard estate and produces an impressive range of still and sparkling wines. Currently offering 16 wines spanning across three quality tiers, Denbies has recently achieved considerable international acclaim in the 2018 wine awards, scooping 26 medals in total. The recently-released Cubitt Blanc de Noirs 2013 sparkling won Gold at the Champagne and Sparkling World Wine Challenge, while The Brokes Botrytis 2016 dessert wine won two gold medals at the Decanter and WineGB Awards.

The visitor experiences on offer at Denbies also play their part in bringing considerable tourism to the Surrey Hills area, with customers arriving from near and far. Denbies hosts a range of vineyard and winery tours and tastings, as well as offering farmhouse accommodation, facilities for corporate events, parties, holiday activities for children and provides a spectacular backdrop for weddings and outdoor events. Guests can dine in the a la carte restaurant with its panoramic vineyard views or more informally in the conservatory.

Chris White, CEO at Denbies comments: “With English wines going from strength to strength, we are delighted to have the opportunity to harness this enthusiasm and give visitors a chance to learn about cool-climate winemaking, while enjoying the beautiful and unique landscape of the Surrey Hills. We are also proud to be local employers committed to sustainability, contributing to the Surrey economy.” 


Greyfriars

Greyfriars is situated on the south facing chalk slopes of the Hog’s Back, on the North Downs just a few miles outside Guildford. Mike and Hilary Wagstaff, the current owners, took over the vineyard eight years ago. Their aim was to expand the original vineyard planted in 1989 from one-and-a-half acres to a commercial-scale producer of quality sparkling wine, reflecting the unique local geology, climate and heritage of the North Downs.

Since then they have expanded the business to a total of 40 acres under vines at two sites. Their first sparkling wine was released in late 2013 and they now produce a range of sparkling wines with a small production of still, which has won numerous awards in international wine competitions. Within seven vintages, production has been increased from two tonnes of grapes to over 120 tonnes and last year about 70,000 bottles were produced. Greyfriars also now has a state-of-the-art winery and has just completed digging a 3,500 sqft storage ‘cave’ in the chalk slopes of the Hog’s Back.


High Clandon

High Clandon was established in 2004 by Bruce and Sibylla Tindale to create distinguished aged-vintage-only English sparkling wines. The Quintessence of England is their name for an English ‘Champagne’. Each year they have won coveted awards, the latest being one of only nine sparkling wines in England to have won Gold from the Champagne & Sparkling Wine World Awards (CSWWC).

The boutique vineyard lies high in the south-east-facing chalky limestone of the Surrey Hills with the same geology as Champagne and their Quintessence is created in the traditional method – Méthode Champenoise – from the classic trio of champagne grapes; Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier and Chardonnay, with long bottle maturation of five years on yeast lees. The vineyard and glass barn has been overall winner of the IWC Cellar Door of the Year for the last two years for the superb visitor experience it offers. Described by Victoria Moore of the Daily Telegraph as “a world away from the big producers, but within sight of the capital, High Clandon is exquisite”.

Every year, to mark the launch of their vintage Cuvée, Bruce performs a ‘sabreur’ (taking the cork off the bottle with a sabre) at the annual exhibition of Art and Sculpture in the Vineyard, which showcases some 150 works by noted artists from Surrey. A percentage of sales is donated to Cherry Trees charity for children with disabilities.

Visit and enjoy the vineyard, gardens, wildflower meadow, sculptures and vistas that unfold over the loveliest landscape of the Surrey Hills AONB, London’s dramatic skyline and beyond. 


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