It was a gloomy Sunday for South East England, we drove to two of the better-known vineyards around Kent, Chapel Down and Biddenden winery. Both vineyards are located a 10 minutes drive from each other, and a fantastic British restaurant 'West House' (with 1 Michelin star) situated in between them. Not too bad to spend a Sunday in Kent indeed!
11:38 - Arriving at Biddenden vineyard, we took their vineyard map and walked around the vineyard.
11:58 - Walked around the vineyard, and time for wine tasting!
Biddenden has 8 different wines:
- 3 Dry white wine
- 1 Rose wine
- 1 Red wine
- 1 Late harvest sweet wine
- 2 Sparkling wines
Price ranging from £10.15 (still white) to £20.20 (sparkling wine). The dominant grape variety is a German grape Ortega, and the rest are German varieties except an aisle of Gamay and Pinot Noir. On this trip we were particularly interested in encountering Ortega strain, as we have heard their 'Ortega' wine was lovely.
All the wines were decent, including a deliciously fruity and floral Gribble Bridge Ortega. The nose is fresh but not as aromatic as their Bacchus. There is also a good strength of acidity to keep it refreshing for a lunch or picnic.
If South East England land is cheaper, perhaps English wines would be more popular. With a similar price range of £10, there is a huge competition from the new world countries making fantastic and cheaper white wines. Try a 'Ortega' if you can find one, with some grilled fish and cold cornish crab.
13:00 - A la carte Lunch at the West House restaurant in Biddenden.
The dishes there was fantastic except the Brioche crab was rather disappointing. The Iberico Pork was cooked perfectly, marinated with a hint of oriental flavours like spring onions. The pigeon was oak smoked, and I think any wine lovers would definitely love it!
The restaurant is a 5 minute drive from Biddenden vineyard, located on the Biddenden high street. It also has a comprehensive yet fairly priced wine list, from list of choices of wines by glass, to 'naturally grown' wines and some cru class wine.
15:30 - Walk around Chapel Down Winery
16:00 - Wine tasting (they only allow three free samples per person)
After a long walk around their massive vineyards, we went into their shop and tasted 6 wines in total. (They only give out a maximum of 3 free samples to each person). Their 'Bacchus reserve' was quite drinkable, powerful floral (elderflowers) on the nose and easy drinking, and their 'Century Extra Dry' and 'Blanc de Noirs' were quite impressive for English sparkling wines.
Bear in mind that if you normally drink champagne or premium Cava, don't expect much from these English sparkling as you might be disappointed by them.
I have to say that these two English vineyards produce somewhat decent quality wines and are definitely drinkable, but are less value for money when competing Internationally.